Saying No
October 21, 2004 11:35 AM   Subscribe

What do you say or do when someone out of the Blue - generally a fellow user who rarely comments and so is quite new to you - suddenly e-mails for the first time saying he or she will be in town, is interested in something you could help with and would like to have a drink with you?

It's clearly a friendly invitation but how do you politely decline, without having to lie and/or appearing to be a stuffed shirt?
posted by MiguelCardoso to Human Relations (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
ehrm, not to be too snarky, but isn't this a passive aggressive, very public way of doing it?
posted by ifjuly at 11:38 AM on October 21, 2004


Write an AskMeta question about it and hope that the person will read it?
posted by papercake at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2004


"I mean no offense, but I don't feel comfortable meeting someone with whom I haven't had too much contact. My apologies."
posted by kavasa at 11:45 AM on October 21, 2004


i think the "sorry but i'm not really comfortable in that sort of situation" is direct, polite and inoffense, although a person who would empathize with that reason isn't likely to extend the invitation in the first place. of course, as far as i'm concerned, the social fiction of "gosh, sorry, but i'm actually out of town that weekend" is also perfectly acceptable.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:49 AM on October 21, 2004


Miguel, it's not too clear if this a specific case, or if it has happened more than once, or if you want people to stop doing it, or if it's just a thought experiment. But anyway, my options would be:
- ignore the e-mail
- if you do answer say you're too busy, deadlines looming, etc.
- what kavasa + crush-onastick said

I think all are fine if it's a 'cold-call' e-mail from a stranger.
posted by carter at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2004


These "how do I say no without lying?" questions frequently crop up in Miss Manners. She recommends "Oh, I'm sorry but..." and "I'm afraid that will be impossible."
posted by bonheur at 11:54 AM on October 21, 2004


Ouch, Miguel.
That hurt. You could have just said you didn't want to have one. But you went the extra mile. Thanks.
posted by Seth at 11:55 AM on October 21, 2004


First, find out if they are buying...
posted by sexymofo at 11:56 AM on October 21, 2004


Did you mean to use AnonymousAskMe, Miguel?

Seth or anyone else, if you're ever in Cleveland, feel free to e-mail me for coffee. No hokey excuses, I promise, heh.
posted by Shane at 12:02 PM on October 21, 2004


Any mefites coming to Denver are forewarned that I have a 4 year old that gets up very early and sleeping on the couch is therefore out of the question (for your own safety)....drinks, however, are encouraged.
posted by m@ at 12:06 PM on October 21, 2004


I must admit there's been a couple people that offered something like this that I declined, but I'm not a confrontational guy so I just made up an excuse, a nice way of saying "I'm busy that day" without seeming like an ass.

Funny, true story: when I went to Australia back in August of 2001, some random new member emailed me wanting to have a drink in Sydney and I looked at his posts and couldn't really figure out if he was stable enough to have a conversation with. I didn't have much time in Sydney, so I kind of had to put off stuff to make it happen, so I declined and I remember he felt kind of snubbed and I felt bad about it.

And you know who that new user was? Stavrosthewonderchicken. These days, I'd practically take another flight to share a drink with him, but he was new and seemed a little nuts to me at the time.

So Miguel, be careful when letting them down, you could be shunning the next great MeFi user.
posted by mathowie at 12:13 PM on October 21, 2004 [2 favorites]


Any Metafilter members who come to Milwaukee will be forced to discuss the greatest Mefi threads of all time, and eat at Kopps or Culvers.
posted by drezdn at 12:16 PM on October 21, 2004


But Matt! Stav is still a lil nuts! ;)

P.S: Stav you know I love you too!
posted by riffola at 12:20 PM on October 21, 2004


wtf, I used to live in Milwaukee.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:22 PM on October 21, 2004


And Miguel, that's why you should never have open invites posted all over MeFi inviting everyone for drinks when in Portugal. On the other hand you could now host the first MeFiLisbon and take pics with shoutouts.
posted by riffola at 12:24 PM on October 21, 2004


I looked at his posts and couldn't really figure out if he was stable enough to have a conversation with

This just might perfectly define your average MeFi user, present company included.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:28 PM on October 21, 2004


Send a double in your place.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:30 PM on October 21, 2004


Seriously, Miguel, why the fuck would you post about this somewhere where the person in question is obviously going to read it? You're a complete shit, aren't you?
posted by reklaw at 12:37 PM on October 21, 2004


FWIW, I never decline such invites. Metafilter members who are visiting the state of Vermont [or heck, anywhere in New England] have an open invite to stay at my place and enjoy the only open wifi within 15 miles. You can stay for up to a week before we put you to work.

Miguel, in your situation you have to determine for yourself whether you just don't want to have a drink, or don't want to help the new user with whatever it is they need help with. The first issue is easier "I'm very busy" "I need to stay home with my family this week" "I have something that might be contagious" followed by a gracious apology and a "try again later on" is always appreciated. In this case, you could offer assistance over email and decline the drink and seem magnanimous, not stuffed-shirtish.

If, however, you want to decline the drink and any further contact, you might need to be more straightforward [I think of Neal Stephenson's "All of my time and attention are spoken for--several times over. Please do not ask for them." as my model for these exchanges]. People who know you know that you are busy, and they will understand. It may be hard to get away from it without a somewhat implicit "I am too important to talk to you" vibe if, in fact, what you're saying is you can't fit in time for an email or two.

I do feel that ifjuly and reklaw have a compelling point however.
posted by jessamyn at 12:40 PM on October 21, 2004


on another level:
"pardon me, sir, but i happen to be portugal's biggest web celebrity and if i went out for a drink with everyone who asked, i would never get anything done."

also honest, also direct, probably more fun.
posted by elsar at 12:52 PM on October 21, 2004


Do you know what they want help with? Is there anyway that you could help them without meeting with them? If so, do that. Why not put some good karma out there?

As for meeting them for a drink... tell them you can't do it during the time that they're in town and then make some recommendations for some good bars/restaurants that they might enjoy. Heck, even offer to make reservations for them.

I really hope this isn't a mefi user that you're referring to. If so, I agree you're an ass for posting this here.
posted by Juicylicious at 1:06 PM on October 21, 2004


Well, tell me now, if I showed up in Lisbon or in wherever it is Matt lives or in Wonderchicken territory or whatever....should I bother to email or just fuggeddaboutit?
posted by konolia at 1:06 PM on October 21, 2004


Does this even qualify as a question?
posted by coelecanth at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2004


I've gotten such offers from other boards and declined by saying something along the lines of, "Sorry, this whole Internet thing is kind of weird and I'm not real comfortable with it." Maybe no harm done, maybe harm done. However, if someone isn't comfortable with an invitation declined in such a forthright and honest fashion, they're likely someone I wouldn't much care to have a drink with anyway.
posted by stet at 1:14 PM on October 21, 2004


Dude, that was cold.

(Maybe not a "lie" or "appearing to be a stuffed shirt", but "polite"? Hardly.)
posted by LairBob at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2004


I feel sorta fortunate that i) nobody ever just passes through Eastern Washington, and ii) I'm not a MefiPerson anyone feels the need to socialize with, anyhow. But, Miguel... ouch.
posted by normy at 1:35 PM on October 21, 2004


reklaw: that's not fair. I always reply to anyone who writes - and not in a perfunctory manner, because I welcome and enjoy it - and have never brushed anyone off. I was just imagining a situation that could easily arise and wondering what the internet-age etiquette was. I specifically asked about a user we'd never have heard of, i.e., I'm not talking about fellow members we know of, much less those who we're used to reading and even engaging with, such as Seth and Konolia, whom I proudly consider a friend.

The idea that I'd post a question just to answer and rudely insult someone who had taken the trouble to write to me - or I didn't have the guts to put off - is offensive to me and, I should think, to anyone with a drop of common decency. The truth is that there have been a lot of get-togethers I'd have loved to have participated in but just couldn't, because of the geography.

Social rules are interesting and specially so when there's a new medium which requires adaptation and even invention.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:48 PM on October 21, 2004


Miguel, I have to say you've certainly given the impression that you'd love to have a drink with any MeFites visiting Lisbon. I, for one, might well have sent you such an e-mail if I found myself in that part of the world. Now I know better!
posted by languagehat at 1:55 PM on October 21, 2004


Oops: that was written before your explanation, which somehow I didn't notice on preview. Please ignore the above comment!
posted by languagehat at 2:00 PM on October 21, 2004


I don't find that the internet really requires all that much in the way of changing social rules. Treat this request the same as you would one that came from someone with which you had something in common, but no actual acquaintance, in real life. If they were members of the same social club as you, but you'd never met them, or attended the same church, or had kids in the same school as you, what would you do in those scenarios? Whatever that is, do it for this, as well.

What, specifically, you should do is rather more dictated by the social etiquette of Portugal than that of North America, which makes me unqualified to suggest specifics.

As for people assuming that this was a specific and topical, rather than a hypothetical question, if you wanted people to realize that you were just making stuff up instead of presenting a current problem, as most posters do, it might have helped if you had indicated that clearly in your question.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:06 PM on October 21, 2004


Only semi-off-topic; but the Oporto Institute at the top of the funucular in Lisbon is superb. And I mean really superb, not just run of the mill superb, like my hair cut, I mean so superb that you almost kinda wish Port didn't contain alcohol so you could keep drinking forever.

And please note the "almost kinda" in front of the wish for no alcohol.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:24 PM on October 21, 2004


I think jacquilynne pretty well nails it.

konolia - you're welcome to stop by and say hi if you're ever in town. (Miguel, you too.) I'm afraid Dayton, OH isn't quite as glamorous a destination as Portugal, however. :)
posted by tdismukes at 2:27 PM on October 21, 2004


I would say something like, "Hey -- go sell your crazy-ass psycho stalker shit somewhere else, internets boy!"

But maybe that's why nobody ever invites me for a drink....
posted by spilon at 3:31 PM on October 21, 2004


he or she will be in town, is interested in something you could help with and would like to have a drink with you

Is it that middle bit that's the trouble? 'cause it does seem a little presumptuous for the user to ask that you listen to a speil!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:32 PM on October 21, 2004


But...but...he'd really LOVE my novel-in-progress if he'd just READ the damn thing! Really! I was even gonna let him co-write a fantasy series about telepathic cats that—here's the kicker—belong to terrorists that I've been kicking around the idea for...
posted by rushmc at 4:24 PM on October 21, 2004


:::cancels plane ticket to Lisbon, gets one for North Carolina to go get religion:::
posted by rushmc at 4:25 PM on October 21, 2004


Funny, true story: when I went to Australia back in August of 2001, some random new member emailed me wanting to have a drink in Sydney and I looked at his posts and couldn't really figure out if he was stable enough to have a conversation with. I didn't have much time in Sydney, so I kind of had to put off stuff to make it happen, so I declined and I remember he felt kind of snubbed and I felt bad about it.

And you know who that new user was? Stavrosthewonderchicken. These days, I'd practically take another flight to share a drink with him, but he was new and seemed a little nuts to me at the time.


Heh. I actually didn't feel too snubbed, Matt. We had never met, and at that point I certainly was someone you didn't know from Adam. Big dumb me just assumed you really were busy. Sorry that you felt bad about it, though. Anyway, thanks for the kind words, and if you're ever in southern South Korea, the invite stands!

(And yeah, I am a little nuts, but in a good-hearted kind of way.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:25 PM on October 21, 2004


gee rush, NC is soooo close to me, wanna have drinks?
posted by kamylyon at 7:40 PM on October 21, 2004


Say, Miguel, do they have Pepsi products in Lisbon?
posted by konolia at 8:51 PM on October 21, 2004


Shit, I was in Lisbon TWICE in August, and was tempted to look you up, Miguel.

But I'd be one of those fellow users who rarely comments.

I didn't think you'd remember the IRC conversation, though, so you'd think I was just some creepy internet stalker.
posted by MiG at 11:03 PM on October 21, 2004


I find the idea of meeting up with someone that you don't have a personal running discourse with somewhat odd. I mean, I understand it, and I have occassionally done so.. but without any ulterior motive (such as it being a blind date), it ends up somewhat awkward.

"Dude - you're so totally funny on metafilter."

"Yeah.. and some of those people are just crazy!"

"Yeah!"

(uncomfortable silence)

"So, you want to see my AD&D miniture figurine collection?"

"Check please."
posted by rich at 7:09 AM on October 22, 2004


As an aside: a public thanks to Miguel when I had some questions earlier this year about Porto. We exchanged a few emails on the subject.

I would (and have) done the same for strangers from the internets: my web site has a reference to visiting the Maison de Verre in Paris and I answer about one email/stranger/month about it.

Would I meet someone who contacted me in this way in Paris (or Shepherdstown)? Probably, as I have done it with people before -- although I run a sort-of internal test on the request. Most of the time it is an architect looking for an opinion about work/living in Paris. That we meet for a drink is part of the deal. Correction and take note: drink_s_.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:39 AM on October 22, 2004


Well I like to meet new people, especially people who will laugh at my jokes and pick up the bar tab.

Feel free to email me if you're in Minneapolis.
posted by Juicylicious at 9:22 AM on October 22, 2004


If I ever get to Lisbon, I plan to not only look Migs up for a drink - I plan to try on his VELVETEEN SMOKING JACKET.

Oh, and as far as the question goes: Always meet any Mefi members, but only in a public place, lest naked groping occur.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:30 PM on October 22, 2004


there's some problem with naked groping in public?

seriously, public places are the only way to meet people from your online life.

OIC, it was the naked part that had you confused crash. ;)
posted by kamylyon at 11:45 PM on October 22, 2004


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