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  • Lisa Plancich

Etiquette for Cancelling an Appointment

Is cancelling the New Black? Cancelling an appointment is not just inconvenient for you. You not showing, rescheduling, and cancelling affects others. Keeping in mind that altering a set appointment with others affects not just you, but those other human beings in your calendar, is a step closer to cancelling with style. We are all busy. Our busy schedules keep our calendars full. You are one of many “we's” in this world. You are not the only busy person on the planet. You are also not the only one with a packed calendar. Everyone, I repeat, everyone, is busy.

With this busy schedule, chances are you your calendar will become squished and overlap may develop. At some point we have to cancel an appointment, sometimes at the last minute, which will result in affecting another’s schedule. Your reason may be important (you might have an emergency), it may be valid (conflict) or it may be an oversight (double-booking). It’s possible, however, your need to cancel may be more selfish. You may have a better offer. All of these reasons are where etiquette and consideration come in. Your first order of business is to begin your change of plans by contacting the person and letting them know directly. In this day of email and text, having to make an actual phone call, or better yet, speaking to them in person, might be a bit of a shock. You should, however, follow through on every option available to you.

If your change in schedule is now impinging on someone else’s day, convenience is no longer about you. You allowed inconvenience to rule when you decided to cancel the appointment. Now you need to make your decision convenient for the cancelled upon. Proper etiquette insists the least you do is make a phone call and personally take care of this. If it’s possible to talk to this person face to face then all the better. Odds are, however, that a phone call is much more reasonable. If you can’t get them in person or over the phone, text and email are both reliable and important. Also, if more than one person is involved in the appointment, sending out a group email and text is appropriate. Whether you call or send a message, you should begin by apologizing for the inconvenience. This lets all parties know that you are acknowledging that this is about them.

If via phone, ask, “Is this a good time to call?” Actually, most phone calls should begin with that little question. Making sure your call is convenient for them tells them you care enough about what they are doing that you are willing to call back. Next you need to explain what it’s regarding. Simply state, “Regarding the appointment (or lunch or Zoom call, etc.) we have scheduled for Wednesday at 3:00.” Letting them know that you are talking about a specific time allows the listener/reader to realize that you have them in your calendar and it’s a quick recall for them. If there is a specific topic you were supposed to discuss you can mention that too. Now that you’ve made contact, made sure it’s a good time to talk and identified what you are calling about, all that’s left is to simply apologize that you need to cancel. Explain what happened (or why you need to cancel) and then reschedule if necessary. Beginning by saying “I’m really sorry, Mary, but I’m going to have to cancel our appointment. You see, I’ve accidentally double-booked that time and the other appointment involved three other clients.” This let’s Mary know that you’d like to see her but rescheduling with her, is easier than affecting three other people’s lives. Follow up by apologizing again. “Mary, I realize this is inconvenient and I do apologize. Could we please reschedule for Friday of the same week? I have the same time of 3:00 available. What does your schedule look like?” Finally, thank them for taking the time to talk, for understanding and rescheduling and then reconfirm when your future appointment is. Something like, “Mary, thanks so much. I know you are busy and really appreciate your understanding about this cancellation. I’m looking forward to seeing you on Friday, the 22nd at 3:00. I’ll see you here at my office. Thanks again, Mary. Good bye.” Schedules are full and there’s bound to be a conflict here and there. When you do need to cancel an appointment with another human being, keeping in mind that you are affecting not just their schedule, but also their life, will make cancelling easier on them, and on you.

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