If you must cancel an appointment, do it with style

How do you feel when you are all set up for an appointment and then you are told at the last minute that the other person is not going to make it? Annoyed? Probably not as annoyed as when it’s a no-show. But if you have a reasonably busy schedule yourself and especially if you have rearranged your other commitments so as to be available, presumably you will be annoyed at being stood up. Or at least irritated.

The New Book of EtiquetteHaving had a no-show yesterday and a last minute cancellation today, I was definitely feeling irritated, even annoyed. So as I like to coach other people to do when something has gone wrong, I put my mind to what business lesson I might draw from this experience.

I know how the “cancellee” feels, but what about putting myself in the shoes of the “canceller” (the “no show-er” is another story).

Let’s say I’m in the situation – and it can happen to any of us – where there is an hour, or half an hour, or 5 minutes to go and I know I am not going to make it.

So what would be some etiquette guidance on cancelling an appointment?

Cue Google.

Via Google I found an interesting article with some good, practical advice, by Lisa Plancich, at BellaOnline, “Cancelling an Appointment”.

The whole article, short and to the point, is well worth a read. I liked particularly the way the author points out that it is up to the “canceller” to go the extra mile, so to speak:

Your first order of business is to begin your change of plans by calling and cancelling with style. Yes, I did say call. In this day of email, having to make an actual phone call might be a bit of a shock. But you are now impinging on someone elseโ€™s day. Convenience is no longer about you. You allowed inconvenience to rule you when you decided to cancel the appointment. Now you need to make your decision convenient for the canceled.

Drawing on that article and my own experience, here are a few suggested rules for the etiquette of cancelling appointments.

1. I will be adult and make personal contact.

In other words, I should not get some long-suffering assistant, or business associate, or spouse, to do what I need to do myself. Even if it was not me that made the double booking. I need to think of it as a demonstration of maturity and leadership. I need to think of whether I would like to get that message from the person I am waiting for or from a stooge an intermediary.

2. If I can call, I’ll do it.

Whether that’s a phone call (remember them?) or a Skype or such, I will do more to make up for the situation I am responsible for if the person hears my voice than if they get a text message or an email. I have to say I quite like Lisa Plancich’s argument for actually picking up the phone and calling – and even if I get a message bank the other person is going to hear at some point my tone of voice and be able to make some judgement about the sincerity and quality, so to speak, of my apology. But as many people do not seem to check their message banks readily, I would follow up with some other means of communication, whether IM, a direct message on Twitter, an email and try to get some confirmation that my message has been received.

3. I will not tell the other person how busy I am.

We are all busy. Anyone who is not retired or unbelievably rich is busy – and even a lot of retired and unbelievably rich people are busy too. If I tell you how busy I am, as a reason for cancelling, the implication is that you’re not busy and have nothing better to do than wait on my convenience.

4. I’m ready to fall on my sword.

I need to just accept the fact that I screwed up and apologise. I can provide a reason and that’s probably a good idea, but no one really wants to hear my self-justifying excuses. See rule 1.

5. For a re-schedule, I’ll find out what suits the other person before I tell them when I am available.

I have some ground to make up here and getting you to fit my schedule is going to slow my progress in achieving that lost ground.

Additional “rules” or suggestions very welcome.

PS: By way of a “let’s face it” footnote, accept that for those of us who have a home based business, there is probably going to be a bit of a credibility gap if we trot out the “terribly busy” line as a reason for cancelling – we know we are but others might not, so if we use that reason/excuse at all we should do so sparingly. ๐Ÿ™‚

Image credit: The New Book of Etiquette, photo by Neil Gillis, via Flickr, Creative Commons

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