In this time-starved age, one of the rudest things we can do is to assume that someone else’s time is not as precious as platinum. If you cancel an engagement, remember that you are wasting the other person’s carefully apportioned time; apologies are definitely in order.
The traditional rule of thumb for acceptable reasons for cancellation was restricted to a death in the family or a medical emergency. Nowadays, that has relaxed a little but cancelling is all about timing. The clear-cut rules for cancelling a hotel reservation can simply be applied for all cancellations. If you pull out more than a month beforehand, there is no penalty at all; between a month and two days beforehand, there are varying but small amounts
of fallout; anything less than 48 hours and you start to incur hefty charges; and if you cancel on the same day or, rudest still, fail to show up altogether, then you have to pay the full price. Hotel rooms may be expensive but friendships have been known to founder on such cavalier behaviour.
Always apologise profusely, even if you’re not actually sorry you’re cancelling. But keep it simple: if you’ve cancelled early enough, the person doesn’t necessarily need to know why – a trivial reason can easily compound the offence.
Cancelling once (following the timing rules above) is perfectly considerate; constantly postponing a meeting that you are secretly dreading merely prolongs the agony and ends up being rude and hurtful. Similarly, don’t accept invitations just to be polite and end up double-booking yourself: you’ll have to cancel one person in favour of the ‘better offer’, thereby mortally offending the first if they ever find out.
If you are the person who is being cancelled – the cancellee – look on the bright side of being blown out. Accept the cancellation gracefully, and don’t punish the canceller with a peeved, hurt response. Above all, savour that unexpected night in with nothing to do.