Anybody who has played in some sort of sport or recreational game has learned early on that follow through is vital. My friends who play golf constantly stress the importance of following through the swing of the club smoothly to add accuracy and distance to their game.
There is the example of follow through in baseball. First, the pitcher visualizes the intended path of the ball to the batter. He then, hopefully, smoothly throws and arcs the ball on its way. If he falters or hesitates during the throw, the baseball will end upoff course, resulting in the umpire calling a ball penalty.
To the batter, follow through is equally important. He remains focused on the approaching baseball. If it looks like the ball will arrive in the strike zone, he must visualize, carefully focus, then swing his bat in a precise, smooth arc. When the bat contacts the ball, he must follow through to achieve his homerun. That is, unless he intends to bunt the ball. Still, the bunt must be visualized and intentionally executed. Any false move or hesitation will likely result in a fly-up, easy catch, out or in a foul. In other words, to be successful in the game, the player must, absolutely follow through.
Some people don’t realize that follow through is equally important in social interactions. My friends and I have been noticing a very rude phenomenon happening more often lately. It unfolds pretty much like this: You stumble upon a former colleague or casual acquaintance. The two of you engage in a friendly, positive conversation. Both of you are sincerely happy to have had the visit. When the time comes for the farewell, the former colleague says something like, “It was wonderful running into you, let’s get together for coffee”. Before you get your wits about you, the colleague is gone.
He’s gone before he or you has asked for a convenient time and place. He’s gone before phone numbers or email addresses have been exchanged. There will be no getting together for coffee.
It’s not about the actual consumption of coffee. It’s about the rendezvous and catching up on what’s going on with each others’ lives. But “let’s do lunch” or “let’s meet for coffee” end up being empty catch phrases. I think of the “polite” greeting, “how are you?” Unless the person is a physician asking the question in a professional manner, she really is not at all interested in how you really are. So you reply “fine, thank you, how are you?” You probably don’t want a list of aches and pains either.
I think one insincere phrase used for greeting is more than enough. Why do we want more?
When someone is told, “Let’s have coffee sometime”, a vague, fuzzy statement has been made. There is no precision, there is no true intent. You can almost bet that there will be absolutely no follow through. That makes the person requesting the coffee or lunch date dishonest.
A simple “goodbye” is sufficient. If the need for a phrase beyond “goodbye” is needed, a simple “I was so happy to see you today” is not only proper, but is pleasant and polite. If some vague, fuzzy expectation of a future coffee or lunch date has been placed into play, there will be an awkwardness afterwards. Thought and energy will be wasted anticipating some chance of a future meeting. The person who makes the imprecise coffee date will likely feel compelled to avoid his former colleague. Or if the colleague is encountered again, there will likely be some uncomfortable feelings. The person on the receiving end of the “invitation” is likely to feel stood up or jilted.
Dishonesty is not a good practice. It’s certainly not a good habit to cultivate. If I say “let’s have coffee sometime”, I’d better immediately follow through by asking, “when are you free?” “Where do you want to meet?” Then we make the date. Most importantly, follow through and we do show up for coffee. This approach is kinder to both parties. This approach leaves no clumsy, uneasy mental aftertaste.
I hope that “We’ll have to do lunch sometime” doesn’t become set in stone the same way that “how are you” has become a social nicety. In a way, many social niceties are not very nice.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says you’re invited back tomorrow at the same place at your convenience. Really!