You’ll ruin someone else’s expectations of you.
Are you a date-breaker, a member of that fraternity afflicted with an accept-it-now-break-it-later habit? The date-breaker is quite sweet and extremely solicitious and ever obliging. He or she accepts all lunches, teas, dinners and committee meetings whereafter spends his or her days juggling dates the person really didn’t want or extricating himself from projects he or she should never have taken on.
After each such encounter the person cries in utter despair, “I don’t really know whatever made me say I’d do it.”
Psychiatrists point out that people who have trouble saying ‘no’ nurse a fond desire to be loved by one and all. But by saying ‘yes’ to everyone, they frequently end up pleasing no one. Those who consistently break dates are often emotionally immature and indecisive. Like kids, they will sacrifice a future gain for an immediate pleasure. They all share an unalterable conviction that their time is more important than others.
Civic or community dates are the most consistently abused. Business appointments that hold the promise of financial gain. Social dates pay off in pleasure, but a rendezvous with, say, a social welfare committee rarely offers such immediate tangible rewards.
If you don’t turn up and the censure is mild, the rationalising is easy but what’s the difference?”
Seven persons or eight, the truth is you have let down seven persons instead of one and possibly wasted their collective time.
Making a date is giving your word, a pledge to be honoured of an agreed time – not subject to review for better offers or a change of heart. There are certain extenuating circumstances like death or funerals but even then, as Mark Twain said: “The only funeral that’s compulsory is yours.”
Don’t take advantage of the people who love you: Since the members of your household are not going to excommunicate you or throw you out if you break a date with them, don’t exploit the situation. If you have an appointment with your mother and you are invited to your friend for a movie and if you oblige your friend, your mother is not going to launch a tirade against you. In all likelihood she may keep quiet. But this may be a day when her spirits are at a low ebb or perhaps she is hoping that you will take her for a stroll or drive her into town.
Remember that you can’t prejudge the value of a date to the other involved: Suppose you postpone a dinner party date with a young couple at the last moment because a business colleague has come to town unexpectedly. But your host and hostess may have spent hours tidying up the house and preparing choice dishes for you. What appears a minor matter to you may be a real disaster for them.
Don’t break dates with children: A child jumps with sheer joy at a promise and breaking it can be an unspeakable tragedy for it. A young boy scout I knew spent almost a week of sleepless nights worrying about this merit badge test. On the day fixed, the Scout-master phoned to say he was postponing the date because he had to accompany his wife for a lunch. It was months before the boy could be persuaded to face the ordeal again.
Never break a date for someone who is more important: Dates are not qualitative. Judgements of their value are more often than not inaccurate. A childhood friend of your aunt’s may actually prove to be more helpful in procuring a job than your most important influential friend.
Learn to say ‘no’ originally: It’s kinder in the long run and much less involved. Nor is it necessary to produce an elaborate set of reasons. “I am really very sorry but I can’t make it” will do very nicely.