What makes an invitation irresistible?

What makes an invitation irresistible?

Aug 17 2022

Last week, on my way home from presenting at the Sexual Freedom Summit in Washington, DC, I noticed that I was exhausted in a specific kind of way. I was longing for stillness and comfort, predictability and even boredom. Since I returned from Asia in March, I have only given myself only three weekends of “down time”, with no teaching or traveling. After the expansiveness of festivals, adventures, facilitating and socializing, I was longing for the “smallness”, the peace and solitude of “home”. And so I began canceling plans. Most significantly, I canceled my plans to go to Wyoming to climb for the rest of the month. This was heartbreaking, because I love climbing in Ten Sleep, and I love my friend who was planning to join me, AND I have learned the hard way not to ignore this inner voice of mine that tells me what I really need.

However, I decided that I would still follow through on one more trip, with my friend G, up to Wisconsin. This trip involved a lot of driving, way more than I wanted to, but I curiously was still a big fat yes to going. Why? Why did this trip still compel me to go, even though my body was clamoring for stillness?

Because the way G invited me to go was irresistible to me. He proposed an itinerary that involved canoeing to a private island, staying overnight there, paddling out the next morning to go climbing, then sharing dinner with a charming mutual friend, and then a send off meal the next day on a rock formation overlooking the Mississippi. Yes, so many activities. And a lot of movement. But what I knew about these plans, and adventuring with G, is that he is great at logistics and planning. He is not afraid to gather data, take leadership, make tough calls and live with the results of his decisions. I knew that on this trip, I would need to show up as a partner, but that he would handle most of the “adulting”. I would be able to rest in my inner stillness, even while we were navigating potential challenges and unforeseen difficulties. I also know that he is great at listening to me, to my preferences, and to including these considerations in planning and decision making. I don’t need to advocate for my own needs and desires. I simply need to make them known.

There is a huge difference between “Let’s hang out sometime” or “You are welcome here anytime” and a well-crafted invitation. These first two statements feel inaccurate, imprecise and insincere to me, even though we usually say these things as a gesture of connection and openness. Skillful invitations require empathic consideration of everyone involved, as well as leadership and planning. Aren’t most of us tired of adulting? Don’t we all want and need a break from making ALL the decisions of our daily lives? When we offer to provide that leadership for someone else, it can be so relaxing to our nervous systems. The energy I felt from this invitation was “Here’s some experiences that I think we both would enjoy, and a plan for how they could all fit together to make it worth your while. Would you come share these things with me?”

An invitation is an offer to create some kind of a future together, even if it’s just for a few days. Irresistible invitations are outlines of experiences that happen for you, not to you. An irresistible invitation offers the architecture of a story that is waiting to be animated with the pleasure of shared presence.

I’m so glad I went. We had a great time. Camped on a beach under the full moon, where we discovered baby turtles were hatching, communed with some raccoons, visited the International Crane Foundation, giggled and philosophized with our mutual friend over a dinner and a breakfast, and I got to make art with sand, leaves and driftwood. On the way there and back, I got to stay with another friend and have some beautiful moments with him as well.

An additional caveat: When I shared my sentiment of gratitude for the irresistible nature of G’s invitation with my Mom, she was surprised. “Hmmmm, it doesn’t seem like my invitations, even though they are often this specific, are irresistible, for some reason,” she mused. She has a point here. When the invitation comes from a parent, it feels different, because the offer to do the “adulting” for the group also has the baggage of decades of family dynamics. Although I remain hopeful about this! I think there is wisdom here, even within the context of family leadership. Here’s my hypothesis: No matter how complex the family dynamic, if someone is willing to genuinely consider the needs, preferences and personalities of the participants, and then take the leadership (and logistical initiative, planning, etc) to craft an invitation, that is designed to make the experience of connection and pleasure EASY for the participants, that people would respond positively to this gesture, and probably show up, or at least take notice of the invitation.

It seems to me that studying the art of irresistible invitations is worthwhile, whether we’re applying the lessons to friendships, families, organizations or intimate relationships. We love to share experiences with one another, and a skillful, well-crafted invitation is where many of them begin.