Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: I think I may be flaky. I cancel on my friends last-minute. Ive always been this way, but in adulthood have tried to limit this behavior. I dont have bad intentions, and I respect other peoples time, but I sometimes find that plans I made days ago might not suit me today.
For example, I might be really tired, have had a bad day at work, feel sick or want to go home and play with my dog. How can I limit this behavior short of never making plans in advance again?
You can suck it up and go. The only well-mannered (read: unselfish) excuse for canceling established plans with someone is that you have to tend to something worse than what you had planned youre sick, your dog is sick, your car breaks down, your basement floods, your mother needs to be bailed out of jail.
Feeling tired or sorry for yourself isnt a defensible excuse except in the case of having been such a reliable and punctual and attentive friend for so long that youve earned the right to say, You know what? Im whupped can I forgivably cancel on you tonight?
And even then, you give your friend a chance to say something along the lines of, Yes, of course or Er, normally Id say yes, but if you bail on me tonight Im stuck with an expensive ticket that I dont have time to resell.
Time is peoples most treasured possession, and the behavior you describe suggests you think your time is more important than theirs.
You make plans, you keep plans. If you dont like keeping plans, then dont make them.
To Flaky: This follow-up is important to note: After you bail/cancel/change plans/flake on your friends, then it becomes your turn to make the next set of plans.
And, ah, show up for them. Thanks.
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