Its my personal belief that in early dating one should make themselves available for, well, dating. More available than they might normally be so that they can actually get to know the person they’ve started dating. Single people have lives, though, with careers, family, friends, hobbies, so its understandable that even while making dating a priority on the social calendar some plans may need to be canceled.
There’s nothing wrong with canceling plans, but there is a right way to do it. You want to do two things, ensure the person knows you’re canceling (so you don’t stand them up) and provide an explanation and/or request a reschedule (so they know you’re still interested).
The best way to do this is call them on the telephone. Its direct, your tone will be able to be heard (you’ll want to sound sorry that you had to cancel) and you can leave a voice mail if you miss your date. I would avoid email and text - they’re less direct forms of communication, and its kind of a cop out. If you’re going to bail, buck up and call the person you’re canceling on so you can tell them personally, if not in-person.
The results of not making the personal effort can be disastrous on early relationships. Case in point, I invited a guy I wasn’t sure I was interested in to join myself and another couple out for sushi. The invite was casual and communicated during the work day over email. In my last email I confirmed the time/location and asked to him to call me if he wasn’t able to make it. Then I left work.
When I got home I was intercepted by a work phone call which required logging into my computer. I happened to check my email and I came across one more email he had sent about an hour before we were to have met, saying he wasn’t able to make it.
I was pissed, mostly because if I hadn’t accidentally checked my email I would be standing outside the restaurant, being stood up. But it also felt like he didn’t care enough to get in touch with me personally to cancel, which made me feel like he wasn’t that into me. That it turn made it easy for me to decide I wasn’t that into him after all.
I’m sure he didn’t even think about it, didn’t actually read my email where I asked him to use the phone to cancel and just replied over email, didn’t realize that on his Blackberry he was just as capable of using the phone feature as the email one, didn’t feel like it was a big deal to cancel since there were other people who would be at dinner…
I asked him about it afterwards, when he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t interested in seeing him anymore. I asked him what he would have done if he needed to cancel a client lunch. Would he send an email an hour beforehand? Or would he also call that client to try to speak to him directly? He answered as I expected, he would have done both.
I told him that’s what I had been looking for. Someone who would have showed me the courtesy he showed his clients. Someone who valued my time just as he valued his. I hope he learned his lesson.