Now that the year is in full swing, it’s only a matter of time before we find ourselves overcommitted and double-booked. But if we aren’t careful, our attempt to exit from an obligation can damage our relationships and our professional reputations.
Here’s the email I hope you never receive (or send):
Sorry for the late notice but I’m going to have to reschedule our meeting. It’s been a really crazy week and since you didn’t confirm, I’m hoping it’s not too much of an inconvenience. Why don’t we reschedule this when things are less hectic?"
Let's break down the litany of faux pas so we don't find ourselves inadvertently making any of them.
“Sorry for the late notice” – If you have to start your email with this sentence, you’re probably sending the email too late.
Tip #1: Let the other party know as soon as you can that you have to reschedule so they can redirect their time productively.
“It’s been a crazy week” – Really? Were straightjackets and asylums involved? This commonly-used excuse translates loosely to “you aren’t as important as whatever else just came up,” and everyone knows it.
Tip #2: Avoid excuses and stick with the facts. Try “I have to reschedule tomorrow’s meeting” without explaining why. Let them assume your reason was appropriately urgent.
“Since you didn’t confirm, I’m hoping it’s not too much of a convenience.” – Assuming there was an accepted calendar invitation in the equation, the meeting was most definitely confirmed.
Tip #3: Don’t blame the other party for your cancellation. Bonus Tip: Send a new calendar invitation.
“Why don’t we reschedule when things are less hectic?” – Unless you really don’t care about the relationship (or developing the reputation of a flake), you might want to leave things less open-ended. Acknowledge that their time is valuable and offer a few times that might work for them. Suggest a geographically convenient location and offer to buy them lunch to make amends.
Tip #4: If you’re the one canceling, make a concerted effort to make up for the inconvenience.
So, the next time you have to reschedule a meeting, use the opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and sincerity. A deft apology can actually bolster your credibility with the other person. Here’s an example:
I’m afraid I have to reschedule tomorrow’s lunch. I appreciate that your time is valuable and I am really sorry for the inconvenience. Let’s get this back on the calendar as soon as possible. Here are three dates and times when I am available. Please choose the one that is most convenient. If you prefer a different location on one of those days, let me know and I will make arrangements to meet closer to your office. Either way, lunch is on me. I’m looking forward to seeing you."