Most people have at least one flaky friend. You know: the person who constantly agrees to plans—even initiates them!—and then (a) bails at the last second, (b) is astonishingly late to said plans, or (c) is simply a no-show when the time comes to actually meet up. Rrrrr. If you have a friend like this, and express your frustration about your friend’s behavior to someone else, you might find that advice/assessments about dealing with your flaky friend are pretty cut and dry. They often sound like this:
“Wow. Are you sure she’s really your friend?”
“You should bail on her sometime to see how she likes it.”
“Three strikes and she’s out, I say. You do not have time to be waiting around for her.”
It’s easy enough for other people to say “get rid of this serial ditcher,” but…what if you honestly love this person? You know she’s being rude, and you feel disrespected when she blows you off yet again, but you don’t want to cut her out of your life because when you do hang out, it’s awesome!
How do you deal when someone you adore is a flakyass-flake?
Well! ::cracks knuckles:: I know a thing or two about this. I HAVE A LOT OF FLAKY FRIENDS. And I love them all. And I gently (yet firmly) don’t put up with their flaky dandruffy flakeouts. It is possible to keep incredibly unreliable people in your life without feeling like a doormat, and we’re gonna talk about how.
But first! Let’s talk about why people are flaky. People are flaky because they can be. Phones are a big factor because those of us with phones can be in constant contact with one another. Plans happen in a flash, and plans shift and change in yet another flash. Now that we’re used to whenever/wherever communication, it’s become socially acceptable to cancel or change plans with a “hey, sorry, i’m super tired, can we do it another night?” text at the last second. Before everyone could text their whereabouts in a nanosecond, bailing or showing up incredibly late was more of a social faux pas.
People are also flaky because no one tends to call them on their actions. I used to get upset with my serial-flakeout friends and complain about their behavior to my girlfriend or other mutual friends, but did I bring my problem up with my actual flaky friends? No. I did not. I was afraid of sounding bossy, or like a parent, or like someone who is not “chill.” It’s hard to be direct with someone and tell them you don’t like how they’re treating you! But it can be done. There are, in my experience, four main types of flaky friends (FFs). Here’s how to deal with each:
1. The Excuse Queen
The FF Who Is Way More of an Introvert Than She’s Letting On
Symptoms: This type of flaky friend is almost always a straight-up bailer, as in, she totally, utterly backs out of plans a lot, canceling the day of—and sometimes just hours before!—a meetup. She’s “getting a cold” a little more often than seems normal, or her parents “ugh, are being so annoying and strict,” or she’s “sooooo exhausted, maybe see you out tomorrow night?” (Note that “maybe.”)
Frustrating! Especially because this FF is so funny and fun when you do manage to get her out! After several bailouts in a row, you might be angry with her. Why doesn’t she ever want to do anything? Why does she keep making plans with you at ALL?
Diagnosis: She keeps making plans with you because she honestly would like to hang out with you, but when it comes time to following through, she has a hard time. Hanging out with people, even people who are her good friends, is draining for her. She keeps breaking plans with you because she (maybe secretly) does not like going out so much, as in: She likes to hang out at home, and usually by herself.
Treatment: I know this sounds obvious, but ask your Excuse Queen why she keeps canceling, and tell her it makes you feel disrespected. Try to find out what kinds of meetups would be easier for her to follow through on. Would she like it if you guys just hung out in her room and ate snacks and watched movies? Would she be happier if you stopped inviting her to things over group text, or if you only hung out one-on-one? What about something like a standing monthly coffee date? That way, she’d be able to mentally prepare to be social way in advance. If she continues to bail on you after this convo, then it might be time to think about whether you are willing to accept this behavior in a friendship.
2. The Busy Bee
The FF Who Is Actually, Honestly, Incredibly Overscheduled
Symptoms: This FF almost always says “yes” to everything you invite her to. “Can’t wait!” she says, entering your hangout into her phone calendar, or hitting the Join button on Facebook. Five actual minutes before you’re supposed to meet, she texts you “OMG sorry sorry sorry but they’re making me close at work now and I need to pick up my lil bro on the way home so I can’t come!!! IM SORRYYYYYYY I SUCK UGGHHH DONT HATE MEEE.” She has done this to you four times in the last month. Always a different reason. Always the same outcome: you don’t hang out. Annoying.
Diagnosis: Your friend wants to see you. She is high-energy and HER SPIRIT IS WILLING, but Life is currently getting in her way. She works part-time at the grocery store, she has three younger siblings and is in charge of helping with them, and oh, she’s also in the school play. And she’s on the varsity swim team and a marching band member. And it’s her night to cook dinner. And she badly, badly wants to hang out with her friends, gaahhhhh, and knows she is dropping the ball on her social life, which makes her feel guilty!!!
Treatment: Don’t kick this friend to the curb. Be patient with her, and try working yourself into plans she already has. For her, setting aside a specific time to leisurely hang out is a no-can-do right now, so running errands with her or studying with her is your best bet. Maybe save your serious invitations for nights when lots of her friends will be in one room—that way, she can catch up with everybody at once. It’s also worth asking her to just be honest with you if she thinks she might be too busy on a day you invite her to do something. Like, “It’s OK to say no, I won’t be mad!” No hard feelings, you get that things are hectic for her right now, but hey: Could she let you know as soon as possible, and not five minutes beforehand? Thanxxxxxx. Because you, also, have, a life.