What to do about friends who flake on your plans

Darren Coleshill

A friend recently reached out via text, wanting to catch up over coffee. We made plans to meet up over the weekend, and that very day, just after I’d gotten on the metro, she sent a text – “Sorry, something came up. I can’t make it anymore.”

That’s when I realized something: I wasn’t even surprised. I had been expecting it. At least 60% of the plans that my friends make with me are broken off at the last hour, almost always by the other party. Another friend had recently reached out, also wanting to catch up over coffee. (Can we make an acronym for this activity? CUOC?) We scheduled and rescheduled at her request over a period of three weeks until she finally — miraculously — made it to coffee. Another time, three out of three people I’d invited to dinner flaked at the last minute — stuck at work, dead car batteries, suddenly out of town. The best part: they all thought the other two were still going to make it to dinner. Thus, flaking.

Here’s an article from the New York Times on this phenomenon. Bailing, flaking, whatever you want to call it. I won’t lie and say I’ve never done it myself, but the last time I remember bailing on a friend, I had woken up with a raging fever about an hour prior to our lunch date and dragged myself to my computer, groggily messaging that friend on Facebook with a thousand apologies. All that to say: I don’t flake unless I have a good reason. I don’t flake because I’m tired, or I didn’t manage my workload properly, or I just don’t feel social enough. I don’t like it when others flake on me, so I don’t flake on others. It’s as simple as that.

So what do you do when you want to hang out with certain friends, but know them to be notorious flakers? Two rules I abide by:

  1. Wait for them to suggest a make-up date. If they flake, it’s their responsibility to follow up and figure out a new time to meet. It’s the least they could do — and it makes you look like you’re not somehow desperate to hang out with them.
  2. Only make plans for activities that you would also enjoy doing by yourself, just in case. Examples: seeing a movie, visiting a new exhibition at a museum, attending a panel discussion, hanging out at the cat cafe. So your day’s not completely wasted.

I do have a small handful of friends who have never flaked; who text when they’re going to be 5 minutes late. I keep them close.


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