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Why So Many People Constantly Flake On Their Plans

Read this if you are always being canceled on.

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Margeaux Walter
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I recently read this quote online and it made me laugh out loud. “I love the feeling you get when someone cancels plans that you didn’t want to
have in the first place.”

Clearly, I am not the only person who feels this way. So why do people make plans if we just wind up wanting to cancel or hoping that the other person cancels on us?

Excitement can turn into anxiety

The idea of plans is appealing. There is plan adrenaline; an excitement about having plans and turning an empty calendar page into a full one. Planning to go to a show, attend a party or have dinner with friends gives you something to look forward to.

The problem is people don’t know how they will actually feel in the future. While the plan sounded good as a hypothetical, the reality is that on the day, you can have a headache, a bad day at work or just not be in the mood to socialize.

Initial excitement can turn into anticipatory anxiety. Gail Saltz, M.D., clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the How Can I Help? podcast from iHeartRadio explains, “At the time they make a plan they think ‘This would be a good thing to do.’ But then making the plan makes them feel locked in. As the event gets closer, they start to feel anxious and they think they don’t want to go anymore. If the plan gets canceled, there is a sense of relief.”

If you are a notorious canceller

If you find yourself canceling plans a lot, look into the reasons why. To start, ask yourself, “Are you making plans that you are really interested in executing?” If you agree to plans you are not truly committed to keeping or aren’t excited about at the onset, look at your motivation.

What with getting older and living through the pandemic, your interests may have changed. Maybe you don’t enjoy going out to a late, fancy dinner anymore and would prefer to meet friends for a morning coffee or an afternoon game of pickleball.

Or maybe it’s not the activity you're disinterested in but the person you are making plans to see. Have you outgrown the friendship and are you making plans because you feel bad letting go? If that is the case, it may be better to be honest rather than continue to flake out with lame excuses.

In some cases, the plan is actually something you would like to do with someone whose company you enjoy. So then why the urge to cancel or the feeling of relief when they cancel on you? Saltz says, “It can be illogical but when the event gets canceled, the anxiety dissipates. You feel better even though you may have had a good time.”

Saltz continues, “Remember that, psychologically, the feeling of anxiety can be confused with the feeling of excitement. Both are emotions that make us feel jittery and on edge.” If you think you suffer from anticipatory anxiety, resist the urge to cancel plans. Remind yourself that this is something you want to do. Rather than give in to the anxiety, push through. Odds are if you keep the plan, you will ultimately be glad you went.

If you are always being canceled on

A healthy relationship is a two-way street with give and take by both parties. Sometimes canceling plans cannot be avoided. We want to give our friends grace and understanding rather than making them feel guilty for disappointing us. But if you have a friend who is constantly agreeing to plans and then canceling last minute, it may be time to reevaluate. “You don’t want to be in a relationship with someone that is always treating you badly or taking you for granted,” says Saltz.

Rather than continuing to make and then cancel plans, try having an honest conversation. Let them know that their consistent canceling is making you feel rejected or that you can’t count on the relationship. It may be that they aren’t interested in continuing the friendship and it’s better to know that. Or it might be that they have anticipatory anxiety and may not have realized how their actions were impacting you. If both of you value the friendship and want it to continue, maybe find new ways to connect that both of you would enjoy.

Don’t underestimate spontaneity

Personally, I have found that as I have gotten older, planning is a bit overrated. Yes, it’s exciting to have some things on my calendar to look forward to and sometimes a plan gives me the incentive to go out (and even if I am initially resistant, I wind up having fun).

But now that I am an empty nester, I also like the idea of spontaneity. It’s nice to have days where I have nothing to do and can make a spontaneous plan. Just last week, my husband and I were sitting on the couch in the afternoon debating what to watch that night on Netflix. Friends called to see if we were free for a spur-of-the-moment outing, and I was so glad we were. We wound up having the best time — no plans required!

Do you find yourself often canceling plans? Or do you have a friend who always cancels on you? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships