Why RSVP Is Dying

by Quentin Schultze

I hate to admit it to myself after years of denial, but RSVP is nearly dead. Why?

I’ve always been an RSVP fan. I appreciate it when someone invites me to an event and provides a way for me to indicate whether or not I expect to attend. When I get an invitation without an RSVP, I’m lost. If I can’t attend, I usually send a note of regrets anyway, partly as habit and partly to gently encourage others to consider adding an RSVP to their invitations.

But among my college students and twenty-something graduates, RSVP is broken. Most inviters don’t use it. When they do, most invitees don’t respond.

After asking a lot of mentees and advisees why, I discovered a gold nugget. Here’s the scoop:

Parents aren’t spending much time on social etiquette with their children. It’s that simple. Young adults are clueless about even some of the best and most essential social traditions. When they are going to be wed, younger adults do think seriously about RSVP, but they don’t carry over that thinking to other social events.

I’m co-authoring a book about interpersonal (person-to-person) communication. I now realize that the two of us have to address the issue of the lack of cross-generational guidance in communication. The age of “social media” is also an era of widespread social ignorance about more formal communication situations.

I think our message in the book needs to be that when it comes to RSVP there is more than either hanging out together or getting married.

This is merely one of the many communication-related ironies of our day.

Long live RSVP. At least in our memories.

Thanks for listening.

—Quentin

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A basic principle of servant communication is that listening is the most important communicative skill. Listening is how we become intimate with reality so that when we speak or write we know what we’re talking about and who we’re talking with.

But listening is not easy. I believe it’s the hardest communication skill to learn. Our egos and distractions are always in the way.

One way to position ourselves as listeners is to recall what it was like as a child to listen in on life. I remember this particularly at meals with extended family. I always learned so much about my own siblings and parents from those conversations. I was amazed.

As children we were much more likely to listen with curiosity and wonder than we are as adults. How often do we now expect to learn something new? How often are we delighted at the wordplay and laughter of others? How anxious are we to contribute to the conversation rather than just listen in?

Watch a child listening in on others’ discourse. You’ll see wonder and curiosity in that young person’s eyes. We’re served well when we can find the same emotions as adults, who think we’ve already heard and learned everything there is to know in life.

Thanks for listening.

—Quin Schultze

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Communicate from Your Heart

by Quentin Schultze

Heart-to-heart communication is the most powerful. Facts and logical arguments have their places in our communication, but they are wooden without the heart of the speaker connecting with the hearts of the audience.
We communicate with heart when we touch each other’s basic humanity—the deepest emotions that we all share, such as fear, hope, joy, and self-doubt.

The amazing truth is that audiences warm up to a speaker when they get the sense that the speaker respects them for who they are as both hurting and hopeful persons, not for what the speaker wants them to be. In order to earn the right to be heard, a speaker must first connect, heart to heart, without pretension or self-righteousness.

— Quin Schultze  Twitter: @quentinschultze

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Two very basic, recurrent patterns cause most of our communication breakdowns.

First, we emotionally cocoon ourselves. We’re not willing to open up. We’re afraid of what others will think—especially someone in authority, such as a boss, parent, or pastor. So we take the safe route of guarding our deeper feelings. In organizations where there is a lack of trust, practically everyone does this, and leadership has little idea what anyone truly thinks, even about the organization and its leaders. So leaders bring in consultants to reveal the otherwise obvious.

Second, we criticize others. This is essentially a blame game to make ourselves feel better. For instance, much of our gossip is really designed to make us feel superior to those we gossip about. Of course we often have good “reasons” to be critical of others. But others have plenty of reasons to be critical of us as well. We all could fill oceans with rationales. But all of the fish in the ocean won’t enhance the flow of our communication. They will just make us feel more self-righteous—like we deserve a “Rev.” in front our names. Criticism almost always thwarts shared understanding. And it causes more cocooning.

These two patterns dog us daily. Learning how to address them is wisdom, gained and seasoned over time. It requires courage and a generous heart.

— Quentin Schultze     Twitter: @quentinschultze.com

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3 Reasons Not to Ask Questions

by Quentin Schultze

Contrary to common sense, asking questions isn’t always the best way to improve mutual understanding in our communication. Here’s why: #1 When we ask a question we set the agenda. We tell the other person what we want to know about and what he or she should speak about. What if the other person wants […]

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The New Power of a Handwritten Note

by Quentin Schultze

As email and texting are becoming forms of junk mail, handwritten thank-you notes are gaining renewed importance. When I went to a local printer to buy a few hundred personalized note cards, the proprietor told me that he doesn’t get many orders anymore. “People just order a couple dozen online if they need any,” he […]

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Use Your Body Instead of PowerPoint

by Quentin Schultze

I use PowerPoint, but very selectively. My body is more effective. So is yours. Here’s why. The most potent multimedia technology in the world is the human body, including our voices. We’re wondrously multisensory creatures. No humanly devised communication technology can compete with the body. The next time you’re at restaurant just watch and listen […]

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Tweets = New Bumper Snickers

by Quentin Schultze

Every medium has precedents. Social media came out of everything from bedroom sleepovers to water-cooler gab and social shopping. What about Twitter? Post-It notes gone public? Maybe. A better possibility is the bumper sticker. Especially the ones that reflect self-expression rather than just group identity. Especially slightly snarky ones—the bumper snickers. You can buy them […]

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