Coping With Friends Who Flake

Written By Ana Gonzalez

“Sorry, can’t make it today. Let’s plan something soon.”

How many times have you received this text or one of its variations from a friend canceling plans once again?
We all have that friend (or have sometimes been that friend) that cancels plans more often than following through with them. If you’re of the lucky few who haven’t experienced this, maybe you know someone who has. When this happens, quite a few thoughts tend to go through our heads that lead to us feeling angry, disappointed, and hurt. How could they do this again? She doesn’t value our friendship as much as I do. I can’t stand that he does this repeatedly. Their canceling means something is wrong with me. It’d be easy for me to write about kicking that friend to the curb but what happens if you really care about this friend and actually have a great time when you finally do get together?

An article in The NY Times entitled The Golden Age of Bailing discusses the ease with which people can cancel plans and outlines questions that could be asked before bailing on plans. While reading this article, I started to reflect on the friends I have who regularly flake and began to wonder why the article hadn’t also included guidelines for the friend being bailed on.

People bail on plans because they can, and, in addition to this freedom to do what they will, people also flake usually because no one tells them how they are affected when they bail. A few months ago, I wrote a blog entitled Avoided Conversations that might shed some light on this problem of not directly telling people how you feel about their actions. Essentially, the longer this conversation is avoided, the longer this friend is conditioned to think that they can flake on plans and you’ll be okay with it.

As unfortunate and inconvenient as this truth is, it’s important for you to realize and accept that you can’t control the actions of others. All that you can control are your thoughts and behaviors. Hence, when the time comes for you to finally confront your flaky friend, it is up to them to make those behavioral changes. The confrontation will most likely result in one of two outcomes – the friendship will grow stronger after you are able to honestly communicate your feelings or the friendship will end. While the latter of the two options sounds scary and ultimately undesirable, it provides valuable information for you. If your friend is angry when you express your feelings about their flakiness, is this a friend you actually want to keep?

When you think about what you want from this friend – namely, for them to keep plans – think about how you can increase the likelihood of this happening. If this friend doesn’t know how they are affecting you, it is up to you to let them know. After you have this conversation with them, they have the option of changing or not. If they continue to bail on you after you have this talk with them, then it’s your choice whether you are want to accept this behavior in a friendship.

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