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Dear One Geek To Another,
I’m making plans for a convention that is almost a full year away. I’ve got three friends (one Single Friend and a Couple) who would like to share a room with me at this convention. However, circumstances are such that I cannot room with all of these people at once.

The Couple wants to stay at Hotel A, which is connected to the convention center because they’ll be costuming and don’t want to deal with the walk in full costume in the middle of summer.

The Single Friend and I would prefer to stay at Hotel B, which is a couple of city blocks away, generally nicer, and slightly cheaper than Hotel A. Single Friend is not comfortable rooming with a couple (it’s not a problem with this specific couple, but he won’t room with people in a relationship).

I’m not really seeing any way out of having to make a choice of one or the other, and all things considered I’d rather room with Single Friend than Couple.  My question is this: How do I break it to the Couple that I’m not going to be able to share a room with them?

Signed, Inn or Out

Dear Inn or Out,

When breaking plans (even tentative ones) in any circumstance, the key is to do so is two-fold: Clearly and Early.

Clearly – Don’t make the Couple (in this case) wonder if they have plans or not by using wishy-washy language or not addressing the issue straight-on. It sounds as if you’ve made your decision, so you should share it with them. You don’t have to go into great detail – “I’ve decided to stay with Single Friend. He offered me a space that he had available in his room at Hotel B.” This makes it clear that you’ve made your decision, without opening the floor for negotiation on location/cost/comfort. It also emphasizes (by mentioning “a space”) that Single Friend’s offer isn’t extended to others, which is likely to prevent the “well, if we knew staying at the other hotel was so important, we’d compromise, we’ll just stay there too” issue.

Early – Have this conversation as soon as possible. Although the convention is nearly a year away, some con-blocks fill up faster than others and as you are breaking tenative plans with them, you owe them the respect of giving them as much time as possible to make plans with other potential room-mates. You can even point this out when telling them about your decision – “There’s still 11 months until the con, so I’m sure you won’t have trouble finding someone else to take that spot in your room. But I wanted to be sure to give you as much time as possible.”

Ideally, you should have this conversation with both of them present. That will prevent one of them becoming upset and taking an emotionally-slanted version of your statement to the other. Both of them will be hearing your decision straight from your mouth, and you can address any concerns they have head-on.

If you’re worried that your Couple friends will feel you’re slighting them, one way to cushion the impact of your decision is to make plans with them to do something concrete during the convention. “I really want to be sure to get a chance to hang out together at the con, though. Do you guys want to sign up for a game session of Dresden Files RPG together? Or maybe do dinner on Friday night at that place just outside the hotel?”  This will help to reassure them that you’re not trying to avoid sharing time with them, nor are you angry with them. (Just be sure to follow through with any additional plans you make, or this method can backfire and look like two instances of rejection/avoidance!)

Oh, and be sure to follow up with Single Friend and make sure you have a room commitment with him! It would be very awkward to cancel things with the Couple and then find out you didn’ t have a place to stay!

Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at OneGeek@jesshartley.com and your question may get answered in one of our future One Geek to Another columns!