“No one really keeps their commitments anymore, especially if something more tantalizing happens to usurp their attention or they’re trying desperately to avoid dealing with something,” says etiquette expert Lisa Gache, the founder and CEO of Beverly Hills Manners, a consultancy service with the motto “Dare to be polite.” As such, she adds, “We’re experiencing an epidemic of rescheduling.”
This, of course, isn’t a good thing. Beyond being inconvenient and/or rude to the person you’re rescheduling with, Gache warns that rescheduling can also damage your reputation. Namely: You become regarded as either a flake or an asshole. Again, neither of which are good things. This is especially true if you reschedule on the same person multiple times, making them feel as though you have little interest in seeing them and/or little respect for them and their time.
In fairness, though, in the age of the gig economy and freelance hustling, our tasks and priorities change all the time. And besides, flexibility isn’t always a weakness… right?
To see if there’s any room for error when it comes to canceling a meeting, a date, an appointment or a hangout with family and friends, I recently spoke to Gache and two L.A.-based freelancers about how they move stuff around without pissing people off. Here’s their advice…
It’s the excuse — real or not — that counts.
“Rescheduling of any kind puts people in a particular pecking order,” says Gache. “Whether we’re postponing a meeting with a prospective client or rearranging a rendezvous with an old friend, our priorities are made clear by whom we choose to keep appointments with and whom we believe it’s okay to defer for another time. The gravity of the excuse can make all the difference, too. In certain circumstances, you may choose to share a white lie to spare someone’s feelings. Other times, you may have a genuinely legitimate reason for canceling such as an illness or accident.”
Email is fine for canceling a business meeting, but you should call family and friends.
“What delivery method you use to communicate your message also matters — whether it’s a text, a call or an email,” Gache continues. “For social engagements, I always advise my clients to pick up the phone. The tone of your voice is vital to letting someone down easy. But when it comes to rescheduling a business meeting, email should suffice.”
There’s no such thing as a fourth chance.
“If you’re cancelled on three times (or vice versa), call it quits,” Gache advises. “There’s no point in pursuing that person. They’re rude, and you should move on. I learned the hard way that this rule also applies to doctors. I’d been putting off my colonoscopy and rescheduled my consultation with the office three times. The day before my third appointment, when I was finally committed to go, the doctor’s assistant called and cancelled. Apparently, doctors don’t like getting snubbed either!”
“There are exceptions, though,” she adds. “Most beauty services — from hair and massage appointments to facials and waxes — require 24-hour advance notice to reschedule without being charged. If you neglect this rule, you must be prepared to make a payment. I never reschedule on my hairdresser, but she reschedules on me all the time. I’m always devastated, but I’m also completely at her mercy as no one else can handle my tresses with such expertise. Does it pain me to have to handle the reschedule gracefully? You betcha, but I have to act graciously if I wish to continue having her do my hair.”
It’s not always your fault. So give yourself a pass when appropriate.
“As a producer, things change all the time,” says Brande Bytheway, a (you guessed it) producer at BTW, a creative studio and production company in L.A. “Between the cast, crew and client, there’s seemingly endless variables, and it begins to feel as if the nature of my job is to precariously weight and balance all of those variables until the very last moment.
“Camera guys I work with always joke that no job is definite until you have a breakfast burrito in your hand. It’s a bad craft-services joke, but you get the point. And it’s definitely been true in my experience.
“I don’t know if there’s a polite or impolite way to move things around, because you’re bound to disappoint people at some point. I think you just have to take yourself out of the equation. By that, I mean you’ll inevitably end up inconveniencing someone, and it’s best not to feel guilty about it. Most people in this industry are used to the constant flux of the production schedule — especially when you start dealing with celebrity clients and their managers and schedules. Things change very quickly. So you have to be flexible and solution-oriented.”
Your best bet, though? Act as though rescheduling isn’t an option.
“I’m a trainer, and while many of my trainer friends struggle with people rescheduling all the time, I tell everyone my schedule is always full for two weeks in advance of any given date,” says Chloe Larouche. “And I don’t allow them to cancel unless they’re very sick or some sort of crazy emergency arises. Because of that, my clients have to be very committed. It also means that I never have to stress about them rescheduling on me.”