The three dots appear on your text thread. You brace yourself for the reply.
“I guess I’ll go unless I find something else better to do!”
“I have no interest in this at all, but count me in until I cancel at the last minute.”
“I’m so sorry! I had full intentions of coming until I just didn’t feel like it. Have fun though!”
“I actually have plenty of time, but knowing you won’t question the validity of this cop-out, I’m way too busy!”
Sound familiar? Well, maybe not. I’d be shocked if anyone actually said these things outright when they bail on plans. But isn’t that what’s actually being said in between the lines of those text messages we can so easily hide behind? I’ve done it. You’ve done it.
Let’s get this out of the way. Sometimes plans fall apart. Sometimes people have legitimate reasons why they can’t follow through on that dinner you’ve re-scheduled four times. Sometimes life gets overwhelming and it’s okay to ask for a raincheck. I’m not about to start a rant on the obvious fact that life is far from perfect and we can’t be 100% at all times.
But what about all those times that you were full of crap? And by the way, “you” can be whoever you think this applies to. Your friends, your family, actually you. If you’re a planner, this is preaching to the choir. If you’re the chronic flaker, maybe this will put things in perspective.
This isn’t another article about how technology is ruining us or why millennials are destroying the world. I’ll be the first to admit both of those things have degrees of truth. It’s easy to add a crying emoji to pretend you’re upset about your bogus excuse. It’s easy (and frankly pathetic) to block the person you bailed on from seeing your social media activity that night, just so you think you’ve covered your ass. But these things aren’t the root of what’s going on. Commitment is not a generational problem. It’s a human problem.
Here’s why you are flakier than a croissant:
1. You don’t have a commitment problem…to yourself
If that statement stings, it’s probably true. If you half-ass commit to a handful of things just to choose the best option when the time comes, you are selfish. If you half-ass commit to one thing in fear of something else better coming along, you are even more selfish. If you constantly find yourself racking your brain for excuses and methodically keeping track of who you told what, you’re wasting a lot of energy. Time is limited and valuable. If you’re going to waste someone’s time, waste your own. Have respect for everyone else’s. Pick one thing. Go to it. And build actual depth with someone.
2. You have trouble saying no.
There is a difference between saying “no” up front, and backing out after you’ve said yes. You may think that saying yes to everyone shows that you are supportive and committed to spending time with them. But unless you can follow through on all of those promises, it really shows that you’re the opposite and have no integrity. It may be hard to tell someone “no” up front, but they will accept that more than your last minute cancellation. Don’t agree to plans because of your self-diagnosed FOMO. You. Can’t. Please. Everyone.
3. You purposely double-book.
This is an interesting one. You think someone else is going to bail, so you have a back-up plan just in case. So basically you expect that someone you made plans with is going to pull what you would normally pull. It’s like you’re subconsciously empathizing with fellow flakers. But then what happens when none of those plans actually fall through? You have to pick. So you bail on the least appealing one. When did we get to start swiping left on plans? No advice on this. Just…stop that.
4. You need alone time.
Shout-out to my fellow introverts. No, I do not sit in the dark alone with my dog, shielding myself from the world…not often, anyway. But I do love my alone time. Sometimes I’d much rather go home and watch a documentary about sushi than go to a party. But if I committed to that party, you best believe I’m going to be there. Purposely schedule alone time throughout the week if you know that’s something your mind and body need. That is as legitimate as any other form of plans, and you should treat it as such. As soon as you start sacrificing it, you’re flaking on yourself. See above on “saying no.” You can be a victim to your own decisions.
5. You have anxiety.
Ok, so maybe you really do have full intentions of going places and when the time comes, you get anxiety about being in social situations. You’re doing your best to get out there and accepting plans is a big step for you in itself. This isn’t something I’m going to address, because I do not have the expertise to do so. But I do understand socializing does not come naturally to everyone, and your best intentions may not be enough in that circumstance.
But…I still need a loophole!
For those of you who read this and still need the crutch of an “out,” I have a suggestion: Decide how important your presence is.
This is going to be subjective, but you can probably gauge it. For example, is it a group of 40 people going to a Happy Hour after work? Did you hit “accept” on that calendar invitation 3 weeks ago when it sounded fun, and now the thought of spending time after work with your co-workers sounds miserable? Ok, you can probably back out of this one. If you’re not the life of the party and no one is going to notice besides the creepy guy in the cubicle next to you, just tell the organizer something came up. But maybe don’t post a Snapchat of your drink at another bar.
Have some integrity
On the flip side, is it a small group of people or a one-on-one situation in which your presence really matters? Is your absence going to impact the other people? No? Are you sure about that? Think through that again. And again. You said yes, so you need to go. Stop justifying why you’ve decided you can’t make it.
Make a pledge
Here’s a rule of thumb. Bail on me once, shame on you. Bail on me twice, I’m done and we’re done. Realistically, people aren’t going to stick around if this becomes a habit. Say this in front of the mirror three times:
“I will not be flaky. I will learn to say no. I will follow through with integrity.”
Say yes to plans? Go to those plans. And I don’t know, maybe reward yourself with a croissant if you can improve on this.
We can do better.