managing my expectations with no shows
March 12, 2009 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Friendship-filter: How can I manage my expectations better when people cancel at the last minute?

I find myself getting really upset and disappointed when my friends cancel at the last minute on me. As one of my friends put it, "I cared enough about you to invite you, but you did not care enough to see me." I'd rather have them let me know beforehand that they can't make it instead of overscheduling. While the excuses range from the usual work excuse to last minute emergencies, I've also literally had friends not show up because something better came up, or they forgot, would rather see their significant other, hungover and sleepy, etc...

At any rate, I'm very sensitive to this now, especially when over the last year this happened over both my birthday and my engagement party, and it's the one thing that pushes all of my buttons. Once, I ended up having to cancel a meal that I was really looking forward to altogether because everyone dropped out half an hour beforehand.

This issue caused a blow-up between me and a very good friend of mine last week. In the end, we managed to resolve our issues, but she thinks that my expectations are too high and that I should try not to be so easily disappointed, or place so much pressure on my friends.

So what can I do so that I won't make a mountain out of a molehill? I don't think I'm being unreasonable in expecting my friends to show up when they say they will, but I also hate feeling so disappointed when it happens.
posted by so much modern time to Human Relations (37 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Make it clear to them how you feel about it. In calm, non-judgemental terms, explain how it makes you feel when they pull tricks like this.

If they don't change their behaviour (which they have a right not to do, remember), get some new friends. You can't force people to change. And it certainly sounds like this is a dealbreaker for you.
posted by Solomon at 4:07 AM on March 12, 2009


According to stoic philosophy, you should think of their lack of manners as a chance to train yourself in the virtues of patience and tolerance. Epictetus:
Can any profit be derived from these men? Aye, from all.

"What, even from a reviler?"

Why, tell me what profit a wrestler gains from him you exercises him beforehand? The very greatest: he trains me in the practice of endurance, of controlling my temper, of gentle ways. You deny it. What, the man who lays hold of my neck, and disciplines loins and shoulders, does me good... while he that trains me to keep my temper does me none? This is what it means, not knowing how to gain advantage from men! Is my neighbour bad? Bad to himself, but good to me: he brings my good temper, my gentleness into play.
However, you should also bear in mind that some people are just so lazy or disorganized that they rely on a stream of reminders from their more organized friends instead of a diary or calendar. If you arrange things a couple of weeks before, remind them a couple of days in advance too.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:13 AM on March 12, 2009 [15 favorites]


You definitely have a right to be upset if they don't show up, but realize that that is all you have a right to. I understand that you get upset - I would be, too. Birthday and engagement party? Seriously?

But I think what would help is thinking in terms of how my reaction reflects on me, rather than how my friends' flakiness reflects on them. Because at the end of the day, I can't change them, but I can change myself. If they choose to be flaky even after I've tried to explain that it bothers me, then continuing to get upset isn't doing either of us any good, and it probably harms me more than it gets the message across to them.

If I can shrug it off without getting too upset, and just chalk it up as "one of those things", I'm much calmer for it, and my day isn't ruined because of one little thing that someone else did.

That said, the choice to put up with it is also a deliberate choice. I enjoy my friends' companies enough that I'm willing to deal with flakiness once in a while. If their not showing up for things bothers you enough, then it's also perfectly okay to decide the friendship isn't working out for you, and just hang out with different people. Not every friendship is going to work out perfectly.

"I cared enough about you to invite you, but you did not care enough to see me."

This is the only part of your entire post that maybe struck me a little bit oversensitive. Often, when people do things like this, it's not because they didn't want to see you specifically, even if you think their excuses are flimsy. Framing it in those terms sounds a bit accusatory and would put me on the defensive instantly.
posted by Phire at 4:20 AM on March 12, 2009


I have become incredibly busy lately, and noticed that I am, often, a little bit happier. I still have to manage anxiety when I overburden, but that's a separate thing. When an event was cancelled (like my lunch meeting today) I think, yay! I got some free time. So maybe being incredibly busy yourself might help.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:22 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


First of all, it's important to be able to put up with a certain amount of begging-off and flakiness on the part of friends. It happens.
On the other hand, if the flakiness and lame excuses add up to a bigger picture where you're just being played for a fool and avoided, then you need to stop including those people in your plans.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:04 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Canceling at the last minute is extremely rude, and puts a burden on the planner, so you definitely have a right to be upset. However, you can't change other peoples' behavior, so you're going to have to balance out from whom you're willing to accept this.

Me personal rules are something along the lines of: If someone cancels last minute because "Something better came up" I would consider that a perfectly valid excuse to never invite them to anything ever again--they've made their opinion loud and clear that they'd prefer not to be in my company. If they have a habit of being harried and over-scheduled and often cancel because they're double booked, I only invite them to large gatherings where their presence won't be missed--I can't make them stop over-scheduling themselves. If they have emergencies, I eat the inconvenience with grace and give them a pass. If they have convenient emergencies whenever I'm hosting something, they fall in to one of the first two categories and I would act accordingly.

Don't do any of this with spite. You have to calmly accept that some people are not as invested in their friendships with you as you are with them. Getting bent out of shape with someone who isn't that attached to you is going to drive them away. Work on accepting that some friends are very casual and fair-weather, some friends are actually just bar-buddies, and some friends are real friends who care about you. After you've got that worked out, accept that some friendships, even the ones that are strong and true, can come to an end.

"I cared enough about you to invite you, but you did not care enough to see me."

Don't say things like this during a discussion about their attendance. This puts a very "Me vs. You" spin on this and they're going to hear "You didn't show up for my party and therefore I am a better friend than you because you are a bad person and now you owe me if you want me to consider you a valid human being." This will either make them come to your next gathering out of begrudged obligation or start avoiding your calls altogether.

In short: Yes, your friends SHOULD show up when they say they will, and you have to cut your real friends a little slack, but the old "fool me once..." adage applies here.
posted by coryinabox at 5:15 AM on March 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


I have this happen to me all the time, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's some personality trait of my own that lets other people think it's ok to ditch at the last second - or more frequently, simply not show up. Just over the past couple of months, I've attempted two dinner parties where no one showed up - I even had to beg my girlfriend to invite her roommates over to eat all the food that I cooked.

I used to be a lot more sensitive about personal flakiness when I was in high school, but I think that I've mellowed out a bit since then. I feel like I've adopted two mentalities that help me deal with it, one good and one bad. The good: having a significant other means that, even if everyone else backs out on you, there will still be one person you can be with (and then you can complain to that person about all your asshole friends, so bonus!). The bad: don't trust anyone anymore. If I invite people to something, I won't believe they're going to show up until I am at the shindig and I can see them with my own eyes. Of course, then you get in to trouble when you're, say, trying to make dinner reservations, but it helps to avoid disappointment.

Of course, you could always find new (more mature?) friends.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:17 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Possibility 1: your friends are not that interested in seeing you. This may be because a) they don't want to see YOU or b) they are unreliable.

Possibility 2: you take are issuing invitations and mistaking non-committal responses for agreements.

If I were you, I would examine both possibilities.
posted by maryrosecook at 5:32 AM on March 12, 2009


Getting bent out of shape with someone who isn't that attached to you is going to drive them away.
Quoted for truth. I had a friend who would beg off all the time on one pretext or another, until I ran into him at a party just after he said he had 'too much schoolwork to do' to hang out.
I asked him how the schoolwork was treating him and his response was 'how dare you accuse me of lying'.
On the other hand, I've learned that it's a whole lot better to have two close friends than twenty fair-weather ones that flake out all the time.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:35 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Same thing happens to me pretty much constantly.
Last weekend I had a day planned to play an awesome board game called Descent. It's kinda like DnD Lite combined with Diablo.
We canceled because my friends wanted to take a nap.

I'm slowly just begining to chalk it up to the fact that apperantly I am the most reliable person I know.

It doesn't help that I tend to completely freak out whenever plans change.

They also tend to be epically late, on a constant basis. The weekend before was DnD and everyone (8+ people) showed up collectively 3.5 hours late. This was a completely different group of friends.

Meh.
posted by Jonsnews at 5:35 AM on March 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are looking at these people you know as if they are your friends when in fact they are not. I'm not saying friendships have to be transactional but no one I know would be pleased about friends that flaked out on either a birthday party or engagement party without a sincere apology or good reason. If they don't show to events like these in your life, you need to ask yourself why you are putting the energy into maintaining the relationship.

I was going to suggest you could be "over-inviting" them to things-- ie, being a pest, but you don't give me enough to say that's the case. Often, we all have that one friend whose company we enjoy but wants to see waaay too much of everyone. Be aware of that, but I'm not sure that's it.

Lastly, if you agree with either of the above, and you're asking, what now--the answer is, stop inviting these people to things in your life. Either they will understand that they need to be more respectful of your time and invitations, or they won't care and will fade away. Either way, you'll learn where your relationships with them stand.

Lecturing them or informing them of your decision to stop inviting them to things presupposes that they care, which is entirely unclear at this point. And you need to prove to yourself that you don't need them to have fun, in case neediness is part of your problem.
posted by raconteur at 5:58 AM on March 12, 2009


A friend of mine would constantly take casual interest as an iron clad commitment and become frustrated when nobody would show up or would back out.

At a party one weekend:
"Hey, you have any interest in seeing Movie X?"
"Sure."

The following Wednesday:
"I got us tickets for this Saturday at 7:30. We can go to dinner first at Place Y. I'll see you there at 5:30."
"Er. I'm not in the city this weekend."
"HOW DARE YOU, YOU MUST PAY FOR TICKET I BOUGHT FOR YOU."
"Uh, sorry?"

It became that whenever future plans were brought up, the best I could do to avoid misunderstanding was to shrug and say I have to check with my wife. The pressure of not accidentally committing to anything in casual conversation became so much that I started to avoid said conversations all together. So be wary with how you are issuing invitations to stuff. Of course, this doesn't really absolve people blowing off events that were planned and committed to in advance like birthdays and engagement parties.

Since a large part of my job involves scheduling and planning for future scheduling, I have no interest in herding cats on my free time. Instead, if I want to see people and there's nothing going on otherwise, I'll find something that I want to do and then invite people to join me if they like. For example, I knew that on my birthday I wanted to have a seafood feast. So I let people know I was going to go to restaurant X and if they wanted to join me, I'd love to see them, just let me know so I can make sure there's space at the table. That way, if people flake out or life happens, worst case, I'm still doing what I wanted to do.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:10 AM on March 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


If people don't show up to events that you invite them too, especially chronic no-shows, dropping out at the last second (for dumb non-emergency reasons) or failing to show up at all, then stop inviting them to things. Find new people to invite, or only invite those people who actually bother to show up. Don't announce that you're doing this, just do it.
When they ask why you're not organizing events any more, be calm but blunt: "Because I don't want to plan for people who never show. I have better things to do with my time." Because you do.
The trick is not to be angry about any of it (or at least not show it), and still be friendly and hang out other times you may see your friends (other people's parties, work, hobby groups, whatever).
posted by sandraregina at 6:12 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


robocop is bleeding has hit the nail on the head, I think. I know because I could be classed as being one of said "flakers". I'm not afraid to admit I'm also pretty disorganised. So unless something has been fully decided upon then it's a possibility I'll forget about stuff.

How do you normally organise things? Text? Facebook? Have you tried calling people instead?
posted by jhighmore at 6:18 AM on March 12, 2009


Happens to me a lot as well. As certain friends do it often and consistently, I stop inviting them to things, and I make it a point that when I go to their various gatherings that I make no rush to get there on time or not be a burden. I don't try to be a burden, but to these friends I don't try not to be much, either. This has made me feel better about stuff.

I've found a majority of my friends are pretty flaky (in an honest way, not because they don't want to hang with me), and so I've avoided planning big things in the last year.

If you want to have something that you do with friends on a regular basis, I recommend finding mutual hobbies and then some sort of outlet where you can participate in it together. That will mean that if they ever back out, you can still go and have a good time and maybe meet some new people.
posted by metalheart at 6:24 AM on March 12, 2009


It's also probably worth mentioning that depending on the type of people you're friends with, you will likely find reliability changes drastically. My business-oriented friends tend to be very punctual, while my creative friends (the majority) are almost always late. It's a bit of a stereotype, but stereotypes sometimes have a bit of truth in them. So, if you want friends that are on time more, maybe you should try to choose friends of a different nature/thought process from some of the ones you have now.
posted by metalheart at 6:26 AM on March 12, 2009


I guess the one that bothers me the most is when its a scenerio like this:

Monday: "Hey, you guys want to hang out at X saturday and do Y?" Everyone: "yeah!"
Wednesday: "Hey, you guys, we still on for X saturday?" Everyone: "Yeah, its going to be awesome!"
Friday: "Hey, you guys. Saturday still cool with everyone?" Everyone: "YEAH!!"
Saturday, 1 hour before: "Hey, you guys, getting ready to head out to X. Arranged for my wife to take the kids to Z for the day. I even stayed up late last night printing out all this cool shit and making sure everything was good to go." Couple A, which is about half the people: "Yeah, Sorry. Forgot I had A to do, maybe next time"

Anyone near NW ohio, like to play board games/rpgs and want to be my friend? Must be reliable!
posted by Jonsnews at 6:32 AM on March 12, 2009


Thanks so much for all the good answers here so far, every single answer is helpful! I definitely need to work on the not getting too angry part! So far meditating this away has not worked, perhaps thinking about this in terms of stoic philosophy will be more successful!

To respond to some of the points up above:

First off, I'm glad that I'm not the only person who has this problem, I also wondered if I had some kind of personality quirk that made it easier for people to flake out.

I usually invite through texting, calls, private Facebook messages (only if I don't have their number) and Twitter. So maybe this is too casual?

I'm overly busy myself, as I'm both studying and working part-time, so I think this could have a big impact on my own perception of things, since it's a big deal to me when someone cancels, as I've specifically made the time. Also, I wonder if my own busyness is being perceived as a sign that I'm not so invested in the relationships. I don't think I'm being too needy - usually I'll see most of my friends once a week or twice a month when we are especially busy.

The point about the flakers being acquaintances and not friends is a very good one, and I'm going to have to remember that when I feel myself getting upset again. I've already cut out many of the flakers from the invite list after one too many burns, I'll only see them when they make the invitation since they are less likely to cancel when it's they are organizing their own event!

Thanks, and please keep the feedback coming, this is helping a lot.
posted by so much modern time at 6:46 AM on March 12, 2009


These people are not your friends, they do not like you, they do not want to spend time with you. If your description is accurate (rather than an exaggeration) this would not be an unreasonable conclusion. Flaking out on a cinema trip is one thing, presumably they don't see it as a big deal or something that important but flaking out on your birthday and engagement party suggests they're not that interested in being friends with you - how many didn't go, was it just one or two? If its just a couple of people that could be excused as 'life happens', more than that and you need to find new friends.

There was a girl in our circle of friends when we were at college that no-one liked, none of us could really describe why we didn't like her, but no-one did (in 7 years of school, she made 1 friend). I think its possible that one reason no-one liked her was because she acted like we were close friends when really it was just alphabetical seating plans that put us together, or maybe she just wasn't a likeable person.

Do these people invite you to events? Do they make any moves of friendship towards you or are you the one making the first move every time? Every single person dropped out of a meal half an hour before? No-one has that many flaky friends, the didn't want to go but you can't fake an emergency 2 days in advance, hence all the last minute drop-outs. How often do you invite people out? Its possible that they do like you but you're inviting people out all the time so it a) doesn't seem important if they don't go one time and b) it increases the chance that something will come up on a day when you've invited someone out.

If all your friends turn up to other parties/events with minimal drop-outs then I would say the problem is definitely with you not them (I'm not saying its not rude to drop out at the last minute but they probably don't want to hurt your feelings by saying they don't like you or want to do X and think a fake emergency is better) or maybe you're just organising events that don't interest them
posted by missmagenta at 6:48 AM on March 12, 2009


Jonsnews, the situation you describe is exactly the one that causes me to see red.

I don't know anyone in Ohio but I know someone else (sadly rather far from you in Bristol, UK) who is extremely reliable about D&D and who would love to take you up on your offer!
posted by so much modern time at 6:49 AM on March 12, 2009


There are people who might describe me the way you have described your friends. I will try to explain my deal in case it applies to some of them...

I prefer to socialize one-on-one rather than in large groups. Seeing a friend among a bunch of other people doesn't do what's necessary to maintain or develop a strong connection from my POV. I know that I can't command their attention for long enough to discuss anything at length, there is background noise, there is little privacy. Because of this, it is hard for me to understand why my presence in particular is valued at such gatherings -- and I don't feel too bad about cancelling an obligation to fill a chair. (I don't do birthday parties and such for myself, FWIW.) That said, I don't resent invitations and will sometimes go to a large gathering -- it's just a very different kind of fun.

I don't like committing to social events far in advance. I have no idea whether I'm going to feel like doing something at a particular time a week from now, but if I accept an invitation for 1-6 hours in the future, I will always be there unless there's a real emergency. And yes, I make tentative commitments when I'm not sure, particularly if only a few people are involved. This seems to be understood most of the time (based on irritation in the inviter's voice :).

It sounds like you're mostly talking about events that you planned and invited a number of people to. Do you ever call up these people and say "Hey, we haven't really caught up in a while. Would you like to get together this evening? What would you like to do?" Are their attendance records any different?
posted by ecsh at 6:55 AM on March 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Don't get me wrong. I'm speaking for myself here, but I am a hard core introvert. I don't like large groups. I prefer small intelligent conversation. I feel tired after social gatherings, and need to take me time to recharge. I only plan "Introvert friendly" things IMHO (Except for my wife or kids birthdays, which are usually huge).
I don't even see a group of 9-10 people playing DnD to be that huge of a social event.
But most of the time its maybe 5 people max to play board games or hang out or whatever.

Honestly, for the most part with my "core" group of friends, I blame WOW.
posted by Jonsnews at 7:06 AM on March 12, 2009


so much modern time, maybe we should set something up to play over the net some time.
posted by Jonsnews at 7:21 AM on March 12, 2009


Many people, especially of a certain age, are uncomfortable saying No or otherwise making a firm decision on an invitation. So what to do?

Your invitations should reflect the amount of effort you put into the actual event. For example, going shopping on a weekend? A personal email (not CC'ing a bunch of people) is okay, maybe give a call the day prior just to confirm. Dinner or party that you are putting a lot of money and effort into? My husband and I have done this a couple of times. When I was in charge of invitations, it was by email and we had about a 70% cancellation or no-show rate. When he was in charge of invitations, it was a written card invitation that we hand-delivered. He requested an email RSVP, then sent out an email reminder to those who had RSVP'd a couple of days in advance. We had just two people out of the 30 who RSVP'd cancel, and both of them gave advance notice and apologized profusely.

If you do this and are still getting last minute cancellations and no-shows, it's okay to calmly tell people (close friends, really, not acquaintances), in person and one on one, that you are hurt, and that your time and effort went to waste. Young adults, especially, may not even be aware of this; you're doing them a favor in gently letting them know that they need to work on being reliable.
posted by txvtchick at 7:32 AM on March 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


It really depends on the type of people you're friends with. I know people who are always up for doing stuff no matter what, and I know people who (lets use swing dancing as an example) love swing dancing, talk about how they miss it and haven't done it since high school, then talk about having no life and having nothing to do, and then STILL cancel when I invite them to go swing dancing. It used to frustrate me so much, but I've distanced myself from those people, or at least I invite them only to things that I want to do and I was going to do anyway, not anything where I would have to wait for their reply or cancel the event in case they were a no-show.

So just stick with the couple of your more reliable friends, and do things that you want to do anyway. After a while of not inviting people and organizing events, they might be more willing to do stuff because they haven't seen you in a while, and this time when you hang out you'll have your own fun stories about stuff you've been doing and they might be more willing to hang out with you more.

And the people who cancel on birthday parties and engagement parties.... probably not worth keeping around, at least not for serious friendships.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:14 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are these friends that you mainly see in group situations? Do you ever call them up one on one or in a group of 4 or less to spend time together? If not they may think (quite rightly) that they're not very important to you, so they don't imagine you'll be bothered if they don't show up. If they're still canceling on a regular basis for one on one things then my guess would be that they don't like you. If they just don't show up for big group things, then it could easily be the type of event.
posted by MsMolly at 8:22 AM on March 12, 2009


I'm pretty flaky when it comes to big group events--I assume that if I go, I probably won't get to spend much time talking to the person who invited me, and that if I bail, there will probably be plenty of others who still go. I think it comes partly from the way group events tend to be organized and communicated: I can easily send a quick "sure! I'll be there!" without thinking if someone e-mails me to say "Dinner with [this group] on Saturday?" but then I think about it some more and realize that I'm overscheduled or forgot about something or whatever the reason, and I end up cancelling. If I get an invitation by phone (voice, not text), I'm much more likely to give an honest answer upfront--"let me think and call you back, I'm not sure I can make it" or "Yes, I'd love to, I'm writing it down now..."--that reduces the likelihood I'll end up skipping whatever it is or forgetting to go.

So, if I were you, I'd try to invite flaky friends by phone or in person only (no text, twitter, or facebook), see if that works, and if it doesn't, then just stop inviting them.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:43 AM on March 12, 2009


Your friends are FLAKES and you should go make new ones.

I completely understand how you feel because I have dealt with flakey "friends" quite a bit. Maybe I am too cutthroat about this issue, but I have high standards for real friendships and I won't put up with people's bullsh*t anymore. It's made my life much more simple and relaxed to just stop expecting people to show up (and when I say show up, I mean physically, emotionally, and mentally SHOW UP to our friendship) after they demonstrate more than once that they are not in a position to really make an effort.

Some people are just too caught up in their own crap to really make time for you. And that's ok. You just have to remember that not everyone is like that, and people who are REALLY your friends won't make you feel like you are somehow unworthy of their presence.

I don't want to generalize too much here, but it could have something to do with where you live? I lived in San Francisco for several years and I made ONE friend that entire time (many acquaintances). Everyone else was a complete FLAKE and just did not have time to really get to know someone because they were too busy working, messing around with their blackberry, or preparing for their next social event. I moved to Oregon last year and I have more real friends here than I ever had living in California. It's a different attitude here, people are more laid back and generally just HAPPIER. And people are willing to get to know you, because they value people more than they value money.

Good luck, and don't get discouraged... not everyone is an a**hole!
posted by bacall423 at 11:34 AM on March 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, I just want to point out that the number of friends you have doesn't mean anything in the end - it's the quality of your friendships.

If you have a small handful of friends, or even just one or two, that you consider to be your really good friends that would do anything for you and vice-versa, then you are doing better than most.

The rest of 'em, eh, just forgetaboutem.
posted by bacall423 at 11:38 AM on March 12, 2009


first of all, birthday and engagement? that sucks.

as a flaky pastry, i function similarly to esch. it's almost pointless to invite me to something > a week in advance, because of mood fluctuations, procrastination, memory lapse, and other human behaviors. i am somewhat allergic to large gatherings. i'm also one of those people that, try as they might, are nearly always 10-15 min late (it's getting better, i swear!). but my flakiness is rarely an indicator of how much i want to see a person. i know how annoying someone like me must be sometimes... so a few compromises help to convey the importance of the friendship and usually make things work a little better.

i have a friend perhaps similar to you, always 15 min early, plans every molecule of the next month, etc. there is a contract between us is that if i flake, i try to do it at least a day in advance (early predictions of flake probability is also good). and she plans on being 15-30 min late (accounting for her habit of being early). it works. even if i get there on time, i don't mind waiting.

having a collective gcal with automated text reminders is handy, as is the reminder call the day before or morning of. email is definitely less effective than phone. over-reminding is really annoying (three or more in the same week), since it begins to feel like micro-managing and creates a lot of negative pressure. also, taking it personally and/or passive-aggressive behavior rarely improves the situation.

fwiw, i'd love to have regular d&d nights. hope this is helpful.
posted by vaguelyweird at 11:40 AM on March 12, 2009


i forgot to mention that i try to be on time, while she tries to be late.
posted by vaguelyweird at 11:42 AM on March 12, 2009


Suggestions:

1. dump the friends
2. keep the friends, dump the expectations.
3. do not do anything that requires their attendance, or money being put out ahead of time, if you invite these people.

Basically, invite, but PLAN AS IF they are going to flake. If you organized an event where 20 people bought tickets- don't do it. If it's "hey, let's all go to a movie", be prepared to end up at it by yourself. Dinner parties, well, only do them if reliable people are guaranteed to show up. Don't put out effort that really needs these people to show. If you're throwing a party, again, be prepared to end up solo or find some more reliable friends so you care less when the flakes flake.

I live in a town of flakes, you have my sympathy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:47 PM on March 12, 2009


I usually end a date negotiation (regardless of who did the inviting) with, "Great, see you at 6:30 Thursday night at X-place." and expect a confirmation (or vice versa), especially if it's taking place via e-mail, etc. "Yeah, I'll look for ya", "Hey, that could be fun" or anything less definite than "I'll be there" isn't a confirmed date in my book and needs clarification.
And "date in my book" isn't metaphorical - I write it down in a low-tech, paper, date book (and look in there once in a while, too!). In ink, if it's a date. If it's in pencil, it still needs to be confirmed.
Yeah, I'm kind of anal. But I don't stand people up who've offered to spend their time with me and I don't take it real well, either, when other people don't value my time and feelings.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 2:27 PM on March 12, 2009


There are some people who are reliable and others who are not. Sadly, one of the ways we learn which is when someone demonstrates their unreliability. It's inevitable that some of your new friends will be unreliable, which means you can't avoid being disappointed from time to time. But once you have identified them as unreliable, then it's your problem if you keep inviting and expecting. So the way to "manage your expectations" is to do a better job identifying someone's reliability and then applying that to your future plans with them.

You shouldn't not be friends with someone just because they are unreliable, but you should not count on them. They way to get together with unreliable people is spontaneously - call and suggest doing something that day, in a few hours at most.

Eventually you will build up a circle of friends who actually are reliable. It just takes time.
posted by conrad53 at 3:48 PM on March 12, 2009



vaguely weird you write: i'm also one of those people that, try as they might, are nearly always 10-15 min late (it's getting better, i swear!). but my flakiness is rarely an indicator of how much i want to see a person

Do you have this problem at work constantly as well? How do you deal with it?

so much time, does this happen when you call people to do one-on-one things as well?

I keenly recall a friend of an ex- of mine, who had happily invited us to go see some exhibit at a museum. She wanted to meet at a particular place. She never showed. The look on my gf's face just about made me want to kill this girl.

I also had a wine and cheese party with an appropriate movie, where an invitee (when I called to find out if she was still coming because she had been so taken with the idea) had taken a nap instead. She showed up and started pouting that I had started the movie without her. Needless to say, while I think she's a lovely and smart person in a number of ways, I never invited her to anything again.

I did make the mistake of thinking I should give her one more chance and trusted her when she said she could take care of something important while I was away on vacation. Yeah, we all know how this story ends. I only found out when I emailed to ask how it was going that she "turned out not to have time to get to it" and I had to arrange for a last-minute handoff to someone I knew could actually get shit done.

Since I and many of my friends travel by public transit, nobody blinks at slight tardiness because shit happens. But the sort of constant willful self absorption of people who think nothing of blowing off events they said they'd be at because something better came up, or they couldn't be arsed to remember ( as a forgetful person, I use gcal religiously and I do tend to note that people rarely forget events when they matter *to them.* )

I get that big events aren't everyone's cup of tea - they're not mine. But really, is it that hard to say, "I'm not really sure, let me get back to you" which is a face-saving way of letting them down gently for when you come back shortly and say, "sorry, can't make it" or counter-propose some smaller thing later. "not realy my thing, but how about..."
If you don't like big events - learn to say no. I have friendly acquaintances who invite me to things I'm not really into. I decline and say I can't make it.

cory and other's advice is spot on - doesn't really matter why these people are behaving as they are, the only thing you can control is how you deal with it. Me, I don't invite flakes to things where their presence matters, and have steadily reduced the number of people like that to a few people who just run chronically late within the 10-15 minute time frame we're all cool with and don't cancel last minute without good reason. It's just easier.
posted by canine epigram at 9:11 PM on March 12, 2009


vaguelyweird you write: i'm also one of those people that, try as they might, are nearly always 10-15 min late (it's getting better, i swear!). but my flakiness is rarely an indicator of how much i want to see a person

canine: Do you have this problem at work constantly as well? How do you deal with it?


i've been lucky to have very casual yet decently paid jobs. in one case, my boss was a chronic flake, sometimes late by an hour.
posted by vaguelyweird at 9:42 PM on March 12, 2009


This HAS happened in both larger group settings and one-on-one settings. I'll give an example: Once, I invited a notoriously flaky friend over to dinner when she asked me out to dinner that night. The dinner was to take place two hours after we made the plan. She is also a neighbor who lives in my apartment complex. My SO and I were planning on making hot pot, so I just invited her along as well. When I went out to buy groceries at our local market, I bought extra for her too. The plan was for the three of us, but needless to say, it ended up only being two of us that night. When I called her, she said, "Oh, I fell asleep, sorry." But it was my fault in the first place for thinking that this flaky friend would ever change and be reliable.

Thanks again for all this good advice, when I'm feeling angry I'm going to read this thread again. And again.

I actually forgot to mention that I'm an expatriate in a foreign country and in Beijing, a capital city with a very fluid population (both Chinese and foreigners) and I'm sure this plays a huge factor in the flakiness.
posted by so much modern time at 8:58 AM on March 13, 2009


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