Saturday, July 06, 2013

How To Make Plans

I knew how when I was nine.  I couldn't whistle; I'd just learned to blow bubbles with my gum; I was well on my way to writing in cursive.  And I knew how to make plans with friends.  Maybe I picked it up from my older-and-wiser-at-age-ten friend, Esther.  After church we would make arrangements to spend the afternoon together.  We agreed on the idea.  We figured out whose house would host and whose car would carry.  Parental permissions gained, we would join up for a splendid afternoon, and maybe even a sleepover!

Maybe it is because I learned when I was only in the third grade, that I assumed everyone knew how to plan a get-together with a friend.  (This is not to be confused with giving an invitation, which is rather more independent and usually requires more notice or more familiarity.) But after years of experience, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe people need to be taught these things, and maybe many people around me have never learned.

So here it is.  A how-to (a composition skill acquired about the same time of life) on making plans.  

There are generally two ways that people can agree that an appointment must be made: either an authority tells them to spend time together or the people themselves express a desire for the company.  The first step is to reach agreement on this point.  After that it is necessary to establish a few of the essentials: the purpose of the meeting and who all is to be involved.

Sometimes the purpose of the meeting determines the location and limits the times.  If I am attending a concert, the time and place are set.  If we're meeting for Chick-fil-a, we'll have to meet there, and at a time when the restaurant is open.  Take this information into the next step.

Take initiative and tell your friend which of the times and days (inside of limitations if applicable) you are available.  I find it is less of a hassle to give a list of possible dates and times, so that my friends don't feel like they're rejecting me if they can't make the first time I suggest.  They get to select from my list which time is best for them.

For most occasions, there will be some overlap of availability.  The procedure should be fairly simple: one person lists availability and the other person selects one.  It is not necessary for the second person to respond with a list of times that might work for them; it is their turn to make the decision.  The exception to this rule is if there are more people whose schedules are being coordinated.  In those situations, usually everyone supplies their schedules and one person (usually the instigator of communication) tries to find one good time for everyone.

One more exception is when schedules conflict.  Here is where things get tricky, depending on how busy you and your friends are.  If your friend does not have any overlapping availability, they can proceed in a few ways.  Either they can cancel altogether, or they can appeal your list of dates - suggesting an alternative time you hadn't mentioned.  At this point hopefully they have already evaluated whether their schedule is flexible.  So they may also offer to change something in their schedule, but say that they prefer to see if something else will work with you.  You decide which things on your calendar might be moved, and respond to your friend's alternative.

If a meeting location hasn't been predetermined, now is the time to do that.  You might want to include your suggestions with the initial communication.  Again, it is usually the job of the second friend to make the decision.  With close friends, it is acceptable for the second friend to admit that they prefer some place not listed, and then to get the first friend's consent or to discuss together the reasons, pros, and cons of the various options.  If a discussion needs to happen, you may want to do this in person or talking on the phone.  Otherwise, it usually works well to write schedules if you are not in the same place when you're planning.

Wrap up with a few details.  Will one of you be picking up the other one?  Where?  What time?  Should you bring anything (money, for example) or dress in a particular way?

An oft-overlooked important detail is to make a plan in case something changes at the last minute.  Usually this can be done with a simple statement: "We can call each other if anything comes up.  Do you have my number?" It is popular now to text as well.  Email, Facebook, and the Postal Service are less useful for improvisations.  Another option is to tell each other at the point of making plans, what you will do if you don't do what you have agreed on: for example, in case of rain, meet at the gazebo instead of the park bench.

I don't think it is usually required, but if the plans are made much in advance, sometimes it is nice to arrange a confirmation call or text.

Do you have any special tips, or good things to keep in mind when making plans?

To God be all glory.

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