The act of RSVPing has been on my mind a lot lately. More than ever I hear friends and associates complaining about other people not responding to their personal invitations. It has not seemed to make one iota of difference whether the invitation was to a small baby shower or a big charitable fundraiser, the consensus seems to be that people in general have forgotten common courtesy and the inclination to respond in a timely manner.

According to a recent statistic more than 80% of personal invitations receive no response at all! That’s a big chunk missing!! One step above the nonresponders, are those that do us a favor by RSVPing at the very last minute as if we should be thrilled they are gracing us with their presence. I think it’s no surprise that people everywhere are starting to get upset and, in some cases, developing a “talk to you never” attitude towards the nonresponsive recipient.

The fact that we’re living in a technological age only adds fuel to the fire. When we think of all the different types of invitations we are inundated with on a daily basis from social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to electronic invitations sites such as Evite and Ping, not to mention the handwritten invitations for birthday parties or charity events that we receive by mail, how is any sane person able to keep track of it all and respond accordingly? The answer may simply be that we need to instill better organization and time management skills, but the point we are trying to make is, anyone who has taken the time to invite us or include us in their celebrations, events and other festivities, no matter which form of communication they use to invite us, deserves a response either way.

This is not brain surgery! Accepting social invitations should not be a chore, it should be fun!!! It is actually a compliment. An invitation received is proof that you are likable and that people want to be in your presence, and that’s a good thing, right?

The truth of the matter is you DO take the time to respond to those invitations that interest you and you DO so in a timely manner. Therefore by not responding or waiting to respond, you are sending an indirect (or direct) message to the invitee that they are not that important or worthy of your immediate attention. Feelings get hurt, people get offended and in some cases entire relationships are severed because the invitee felt ignored and disrespected. To avoid any future accidental offenses, perhaps we should lay down a few ground rules for proper RSVPing.

Rule #1: Keep Track of Your Invites. Once you receive an invitation, you should RSVP within 24-48 hours of its receipt. This system helps to diminish any problems that may arise if another invitation for the same date and time arrives in the mail days later. Nowadays, many RSVP’s have end dates giving us more time to check our calendars and clear our schedules before committing. Even if you take a little more time with your decision, proper etiquette dictates that you are supposed to RSVP to the first invitation that arrives and decline the subsequent. Once you have accepted the invitation, enter the date on a master calendar and then post a hard copy somewhere prominent to remind you of your upcoming engagement.

Rule #2: Split Your Time Sensibly. Although technically you are only obligated to attend the first invitation you receive, you may feel inclined (or obliged) to RSVP to more than one engagement at a given time. If that is the case, the trick is to be respectful and split your time sensibly to ensure you are not offending the invitees who probably wish they had you committed for the “whole enchilada”. Dividing your time between engagements can also present a couple of problems. The first and most obvious reason is that it is nearly impossible to be a full participant of any single event when you are busy dashing back and forth from one place to the next! The second is that people often feel that the first event attended is the less important one because the attendee is saving the best for last. If you are planning on splitting your time, give the invitee an honest “heads up” and make every effort to be fully present for each engagement so that you are adding to the occasion, not detracting from it.

Rule #3: Pay Extra Careful Attention to Electronic Invites. This becomes an especially delicate matter on sites such as Evite because you are able to see who opened your invitation, but did not respond. Think twice before publishing your invite list for all to see if you are concerned that some may base their decision on who else is coming. These same recipients may wait until the last minute to see if anyone changed their mind before committing whole-heartedly. The good news about Evites is that if you are confident your guests are coming, they can post fun comments and shower you with love for all your guests to see. Additionally, they send out automatic reminders to those who may have forgotten to RSVP making it easy for them to accept the invitation or change their mind last minute and usually without confrontation. Although they are not my favorite way to send an invitation, they are just as real as a handwritten invitation and demand the courtesy of a proper response.

Rule #4: Return the Favor of Your Reply. It is expected that you should respond favorably towards an invitation if that person has responded favorably torwards you. If there is a charity that is near and dear to your friend’s heart and you have given a donation or attended a special event to show you care, then they too should be willing to RSVP in the affirmative to a charity that is close to you. It is when one person feels they are lending their support and the feeling is not met, that people tend to get very upset and social prices are paid.

Rule #5 : Make Sure You Have a Good Excuse! If you are unable to RSVP positively to an event, that is perfectly fine, as long as you have a decent and thoughtful excuse. How you deliver your excuse and the words you choose to express yourself can make all the difference. This point comes particularly into play with electronic invitations where recipients can view everyone’s responses and may make certain judgements based on their tone. If you are going to make up a white lie, keep it simple. A surefire sign of a liar is someone who offers a lengthy and overly detailed explanation.

Rule #6: Know Who You’re Dealing With. If you receive an invitation from one of your anal retentive friends or family members, don’t make them “squirm for their supper”, RSVP in a timely manner. On the other hand, if you receive an invitation from one of your more “loosey goosey” friends or family members who like to be spontaneous and have never been able to commit to you with more than a day’s notice, don’t worry about responding immediately. Maybe you even want to give them a taste of their own medicine and RSVP at the last minute. It might help them to understand that this is not really acceptable behavior.

Rule #7: If you are a VIP, don’t act like an ASS. News flash – unless you are the President of the United States or some other high ranking official, you are no more important than anyone else and your RSVP is required!! We all have insanely busy schedules. We all have social calendars that are quite filled (and even if they’re not, don’t rub our noses in it and make us feel bad because you are so popular and your dance card is full). Save your drama for the big screen and RSVP like a thoughtful human being.

Rule #8: Realize that Some of your Closest Friends May Be the Worst Offenders. Of all the people who respond, your inner circle should “have your back” and should be the first group of people to RSVP to all of your parties, events and other engagements. There is really never a good enough excuse, unless they’re out of the country or on their death bed, for not RSVPing in the affirmative to one of your invitations. But for some reason, they are the first to take your relationship for granted never thinking that there may be a social price to pay for not RSVPing. If you are one of these friends, take note and curtail this behavior in the future because if you can’t count on your friends, who can you count on?

These days getting someone to RSVP is like asking them to donate blood. All of the sudden they’re running for the hills claiming they’re overbooked and overwhelmed. They can’t possibly imagine adding one more engagement to their social calendar. I say, give me a break!! Not responding is simply RUDE and leaves the invitee in an awkward and uncomfortable position.

Although, the literal translation of RSVP is “respond if you please” and originates from a time when a response was pleasantly suggested rather than held against us, the symbolic translation feels a bit like a threat as in “respond or I may never talk to you again”. Yikes!!