A month or so ago I wrote a post called The Almost Extinction of the Drop-In. If you didn’t read it, you might want to read it first to catch up. I was surprised at the response to the post. The comments fell into a few groups:
1. people who LOVE drop-ins
2. people who don’t mind them but want a warning
3. people who don’t like drop-ins
My main and most surprising observation was that the people who didn’t care for a drop-in didn’t feel free to say, “Thank you so much for dropping by, but it’s a bad time,” or to simply not answer the door. Just because someone drops by does NOT mean you are required to invite them in. I think that’s where the drop-in breaks down and gets a bad reputation–when we aren’t willing to tell or accept the truth.
Some well-intentioned people are abusing the drop-in on both sides. They are showing up too often and staying too long. They are inviting people in when they should be telling the truth: that it’s simply not a good time.
Here are my non-scientific tips so that the drop-in-ees and drop-in-ers can all get along. Maybe one day the drop-in can return to its former glory, a not-to-be-dreaded-gift.
1. Don’t drop-in with the assumption that you will be invited inside.
If you are a drop-in-er, above all, you must be able to accept an “it’s a bad time.” If someone tells you it’s not a good time, believe them and don’t take it personally. Think back to your response the last time someone told you no. Did you handle it with grace or did you second guess and get your feelings hurt? If you cannot deal with drop-in rejection, that’s probably a sign that you shouldn’t be dropping in on people.
2. If your friend says, “Yes, come in!” aim for a 15-minute visit. Wouldn’t it be great to leave them wanting more of you?
3. Drop in joyfully.
Think back to your last drop in. Would the person you dropped in on call your visit a joy or a burden? Aim to be a joy as often as possible. There are always times when we need a friend’s shoulder to cry on. By all means, I want my friends to feel free to absolutely stop by when they are hurting–they had better! But if I know that every day I’ll be required to give an hour-long counseling session, I might shy away from the door knocks.
4. Just because you know someone and pass their house every day doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to drop-in regularly.
5. Just because someone is on staff at your church or married to a staff person doesn’t mean they have a personality that enjoys a regular drop-in. We are all created differently and that’s okay.
For the drop-in-ee
1. It’s your responsibility to only invite a drop-in inside if it’s a good time.
You are NOT required to invite a drop-in inside. It’s not their responsibility to know if you’ve had an argument with your husband or if you have diarrhea or if you just need to be alone! It’s your responsibility to let them know it’s not a good time. You are free to say no. Without explanation.
The worst possible thing to do is to invite someone in when it’s not a good time. Southerners, I’m talking to you. To invite someone into your home and then to be secretly mad at them for being there or staying too long is ten times worse than being honest from the start and thanking them for dropping by but kindly telling them it’s a bad time.
You and your friends deserve better. Tell the truth. You can do this. I certainly wouldn’t want someone to pretend like it’s good timing if I dropped-in.
If you aren’t close enough to someone to tell someone it’s not a good time, then you aren’t close enough to them for them to assume they can drop-in.
In other words, if someone feels close enough to drop-in on you, then they are close enough to trust you if you tell them it’s a bad time. Please, please take this to heart. It saddens me how we are doing this all wrong. Tell the truth. It’s okay. Their reaction to the truth is not your responsibility.
2. Evaluate your motives.
Do you not want your friends to come in because your house is a mess? I’ve been there, too. Sometimes this is a sign that we are trying to impress people and focusing on the wrong things. Consider welcoming your friends into your mess from time to time. If your reply is, “Well, then they will judge me and go talk about my dirty house to all our friends,” this might be a good time to re-evaluate your friendships.
3. Learn how to kindly end a visit.
Ending a visit starts at the beginning. If you have a surprise drop-in and you want to see them but can’t afford to spend the entire morning chatting it up, right from the start set the time limit with a quick little, “I only have 10 minutes but I’d love for you to come in for a second so we can catch up.”
If you need to end a visit, then take that responsibility. It’s an art. Say something like, Well, I am SO happy that you stopped by (as you stand up), and I wish I could visit longer but I have to (insert reason –a deadline, scheduled phone call, a pile of work, an errand what have you) (as you walk to the door).
Whatever you do, do not try to reenact an Andy Griffith episode and give all sorts of manipulative cues and twitches that you are tired or need to do something. And WHATEVER you do, don’t get mad when your cues aren’t interpreted. Closing a conversation is not mean. It’s a skill and everyone needs to know how to do so graciously.
The best advice usually comes in the comments and the last post was no different. If you want to drop in on someone, great! Simply text or call first to see if it’s a bad time. (And if they don’t text back or answer, don’t drop-in).
Also, there are different kinds of drop-ins that require different types of sensitivities so feel free to discuss in the comments.
A neighbor dropping by your house with a plate of cookies to welcome you to the neighborhood is quite different than a neighbor stopping by your house with her kids every day after school assuming they’ll be invited in to play for a few hours.
Obviously, this is simply my perspective. I’m an introvert who almost never drops in on anyone outside my inner circle of friends but I also actually enjoyed the close neighborhood life when a neighbor would pop in and stand in the kitchen and talk as I made dinner. I’m also very confident in telling someone it’s a bad time and quite well-versed in politely letting people know I need to go do something else and the visit is over. I appreciate having friends who know I love them and who trust me if I told them it wasn’t a good time.
Your turn! I want to hear your thoughts on the great drop-in debate!