Raised as a Tibetan Buddhist in India, Tenzin Metok Sither, 27, now works as a banking regulator in London and has a rather strict friendship policy.
A few weeks ago, I invited my husband’s friends, Alex and Susan, for lunch. Susan cancelled as her brother had arrived in the country. However, her husband did attend. I asked her if they had another free day so I could make food for them. We agreed on a date and I invited a few more friends so that I could make cakes for that afternoon. I even negotiated a friend’s birthday so that it would not clash on that day. A week before we were due to meet, Alex asked if he could ‘swap’ our lunch with our other friend’s birthday.
My Buddhist feelings of compassion and tolerance evaporated. I wanted to write back that it wasn’t so much a swap as a cancellation and that I had invited other people around the date they agreed. However, my capitalist mind searched for the most diplomatic response that would still maintain the friendship whilst remembering to put them in the ‘people I cant be bothered to make more effort for’ list. I replied curtly; “See you Saturday.”
When I first arrived in this country, I spent a lot of time and energy organising friends gatherings. Being a Buddhist invariably involves showing compassion like a fountain. I couldn’t help but wonder: How many chances can you give someone when you realise they are not interested and/or you don’t have to make any more effort?
I now have a three strike rule (well sometimes its two strikes if its an invitation when I cook at my home because I don’t offer this to everyone), if I invite someone for dinner and they cancel three times, I never make any more effort with them again. EVER.
I didn’t realise that my rule was so harsh when I met up with another friend who had been put in that very list. She said her husband and her had felt so bad about not being able to attend the last three times and that they had appreciated that I had initiated the invitations. In that case, I reinstate those people in the ‘you are back in my good books’ group.
"I now have a three strike rule... if I invite someone for dinner and they cancel three times, I never make any more effort with them again. EVER"
If someone is your true friend, and they want to make it up to you, they will make the effort and suggest alternative dates or try their best to host you for lunch in return.
My friends have heard several responses to lunch invitations which were downright rude/inappropriate/unbelievable – “I need to spend more time with my family”, “I can’t drive all the way to London for one event.” When you hear some similar sounding excuses, you know not to ever make more effort. From a capitalist perspective, I assume these would be considered ‘sunk costs’.
Social etiquette rules imply that when someone invites you to their party, you are obliged to turn up at theirs. I have some good friends who always come to all my parties, even when one of them fractured her leg. We saw her crossing the road limping on the way. These are the moments when you realise that some of your friends will always make more of an effort than others and you have to cherish them.
For the others? I’ve made a slight modification to my three-invite rule. When someone does not respond or declines three of my invitations, I will not make any more effort unless they invite us to their event and then the strikes potentially reset. I find it difficult to give people the benefit of the doubt if it’s more than three cancellations, but once they make the effort, it signals a positive step towards the relationship you share.
To read more of Tenzin’s work visit BuddhistInTheCity.com
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