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How To Stop Being A Flake And Start Being A Friend

Yes, canceling plans IS a really big deal!

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Two women best friends on a hike in the woods.
Eli Meir Kaplan/Gallery Stock
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Once upon a time, when you would make plans with someone — friend or romantic pursuit — you could revel in those plans, look forward to those plans, get excited about those plans — because those plans, barring a major emergency, were pretty much set in stone.

Fast forward to 2019, and making plans with someone and having those plans actually be followed through on are about as much of a “certainty” as buying a lottery ticket. I mean … I haven’t done the math, but I’d almost be willing to bet you’d be MORE likely to win the lottery than to have every plan you make within a given week actually come to fruition.

Let’s face it, friends: We’re living in an age of UNaccountability, and people are flakier than the breakfast cereal I pour into my bowl every morning.

Unaccountability means what, exactly? Well, to make myself sound really ancient, back in the day, when you had to cancel plans, you didn’t get to just shoot someone a text and bail (because texting didn’t exist) and the idea of just ghosting someone and not showing up was unheard of (because: manners). In 2019, however, both a vague one-sentence text bailing on plans AND ghosting and just simply not showing up are both options that most people deem viable. There’s no face-to-face or even voice-to-voice interaction, no awkwardness, no muss/no fuss, and zero accountability. You can just send the text and go about your day, without ever having to contend with how your flakiness might be impacting the other person.

Is canceling plans REALLY that big of a deal, in the grand scheme of things? You might be asking. Well, in a word: YES. Let me qualify that. If a last-minute emergency or unavoidable family conflict or something genuinely pressing comes up every once in awhile that forces you to cancel plans, that is completely and totally understandable. We ALL have those things come up as life is unpredictable, and you have to have some grace and flexibility in your friendships and relationships for unforeseen circumstances. But if you are canceling plans because “a boy was mean to you” or because you “decided at the last minute you just need to take a self-care day,” or for any other wishy-washy, lame reason … that is not okay. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take self-care days, because you absolutely should. But you should also have enough care and concern and respect for your friendships that you don’t decide 30 minutes before you’re set to meet someone that your self-care day should take precedence over your commitment to your friend. And here’s the thing you need to remember, too: If you are married or in a relationship or have kids or all of the above and you’re canceling plans with a single friend ... you have built-in and consistent community, in that you have a family or a significant other. There’s a really good chance that you WERE the community for the week for the person you just canceled on, and they were likely looking forward to spending time with you all week. And now you’ve bailed on them at the last minute, giving them no time to make other plans and essentially stripping them of their community for the week. So YES. It is a really big deal to cancel plans, and it might impact the other person’s mental health in ways you can’t possibly see in the moment that you shoot off a one-line text message, standing them up.

I can honestly say when I make plans nowadays, I usually give it a 50 percent chance that those plans will actually take place. And I know I’m not alone in this and the problem isn’t just that I have really crappy friends. Our problem, as a society, is that we just simply don’t put in enough effort when it comes to friendship. We don’t take commitment seriously, and by commitment, I mean commitment to our word and to actually doing what we say we’re going to do. We view relationships as disposable, and easy come-easy go. And we’re more concerned with our comfort and convenience than we are our character and integrity. We prefer to stay safely behind our phone screens than to actually show up and do the work of being a good friend. And that HAS to stop.

So what can you do to stop being a flake and start being a friend? It’s pretty simple actually.

1) Don’t be halfhearted. If you make plans with someone, make every possible effort to see those plans through. Barring an emergency, SHOW UP. Chances are, even if you feel like canceling because of a long week or whatever, you’ll have a great time once you get there and be glad you didn’t bail.

2) If you see a few days in advance that you’re going to have to cancel, go ahead and cancel instead of waiting til the last minute. Respect the other person’s time. I can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve been canceled on an hour or so (or even less) in advance, and nothing is more disappointing and simultaneously, infuriating. Give the other person some lead time, especially if it’s on a weekend, so they can make other plans. Again, for us singles, sometimes the only community we have all week is with you … and if you flake on us at the last minute, we have to go another week without that community.

3) If you do cancel plans, make every effort to reschedule. About a month or so ago, I had a friend text me (at the last minute) to cancel plans that had been on my calendar for over a month … I texted back and let her know I’d love to reschedule … and I haven’t heard from her since. Having to cancel plans is one thing, but failing to even respond to someone when they let you know they want to reschedule is just simply not okay. No one is THAT busy, y’all.

4) Never ghost someone. NEVER. This is never, ever okay. Honestly, if you have to cancel on someone at the last minute, you should have the decency to pick up the phone and call them, not send a halfhearted text or just ghost all together. Always treat people with the same respect you would want someone to treat you with.

5) Realize that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. If you are consistently flaky and unreliable, eventually, people are going to stop making plans with you. And the only person you will have to blame is YOU. I have people in my own life that I love but keep at arms-length now because I’m just simply tired of allowing them to disappoint me. You will always get back what you put out when it comes to friendship.

At the end of the day, flakes belong in your cereal bowl, not in your life. If you have people who consistently let you down, it might be time to give the friendship up. Or at least take a little pause until they can prove themselves more reliable. Friendship is a wonderful, beautiful thing … but much like a relationship, it shouldn’t be SO HARD. And if they can’t see what a blessing it is to have you as a friend, maybe they shouldn’t have you at all.