No, no… I’m not talking about “cancel culture” in the sense that R. Kelly has definitely been “cancelled.” I’m talking about something different.
How many times have you made plans with a friend, and found out that they’ve had to “cancel” on you later? Yeah… probably quite a bit.
Cancelling on someone happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we’re just simply “too tired” and really do need some rest. Sometimes we’re embarrassed about confronting something inevitable when we interact with a particular person, and we just don’t want to face it at that time. Other times, we’re “waiting for something better to come along” and when it does, we cancel on the original plan. Other times, we don’t want to have to “put on a face” and be happy in public – but we’d never admit that! It’s so complicated!
The scary thing that happens when we “cancel” on someone, is the anxiety it induces.
I imagine that this anxiety is shared between all parties involved in whatever plans were made.
Think about it; when you’re on the receiving end of a cancellation, your mind probably immediately flashes to “uh oh, was it something I did?” You might also think, “why did they cancel on me? Is everything okay with them, or between us?”
On the flip side, if you’re the one who decides to cancel plans, you might think, “I really hope they don’t hate me for doing this.” Then, you’ll spend your night awake at 2AM analyzing a thousand ways to be apologetic because you can’t stand “hurting” that person by cancelling. Yep, I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve asked all of these questions in response to all sorts of these scenarios.
As a form of comfort, I’d like to offer this; do not for a second blame yourself or anyone else involved when a cancellation happens – just have a conversation about it.
We’ve established that canceling plans can cause anxious thoughts and feelings on both ends. Maybe it would help to provide fuller (and more honest) explanations when cancellations happen? It can’t hurt to be honest about that later either.
For my part, if I cancel plans, I’m going to put more of an explanation behind it. I might say something like, “Hey I am so sorry to do this, but I’m just having a rough mental health day and feel like I need a night at home to chill out.” On the receiving end? You might say something like, “You know what, I needed a night off too. I’m okay with that. Next time, can we talk about [insert topic here]?” Not “okay” with a cancelled plan? Say something like, “I’m bummed, but I understand. Let’s shoot for [insert idea and date/time here] instead?” In my opinion, all of those statements show a desire to connect while respecting space and wishes.
Would this conversation work with you and your friends?