Sooner or later we all have to cancel our plans, whether we want to or not. Emergencies happen. You get tied up at work, come down with a terrible cold, or find yourself battling icy roads. That’s all understandable. But if you are known as a chronic “flake”—or someone who constantly cancels plans at the last minute—there is a problem. Not only does it make you seem unreliable, it makes you seem uncivil as well.
To avoid ruffling people’s feathers, follow these rules of civility:
-Don’t spread yourself too thin. Tom’s party is at 8, but you’ve told Lisa you’d meet her for cocktails at 7. Can you do both? It’s tricky. I’ve found that by trying to please everyone and running around all over time, I wind up pleasing no one. Not only am I exhausted and stressed, I don’t get to spend quality time with my friends and as a result they feel shortchanged. If you’ve already committed to one event and don’t have time for anything else, politely decline.
-RSVP as soon as you can. If you leave an invite hanging, the host will assume that you’re merely waiting for a better offer. Instead, consult your personal calendar, confirm that there are no conflicts, and accept or decline as you see fit.
-Find better excuses. What are your grounds for canceling on someone? Are you genuinely ill, or just a bit tired? Are you totally stranded, or could you easily get a lift? Is there an actual emergency, or are you just being lazy? When people are counting on you to attend you at least owe it to them to show up if no other reasonable alternative exists.
-Call as soon as you know you’re not going to make it. I’ve had people RSVP to an event, then never show up or even call. How rude! If you find out on Friday that your boss has scheduled a meeting for Monday evening, let the friend you were going to meet that night know right away. This way he or she can make alternate plans. And notice that I said “call”—don’t just text or email.
-Make it up to them. If you have to flake out on, say, a coffee date with a friend, suggest an alternate date. Don’t expect your friend to change their existing plans for you.
-Don’t make it a habit. Have you canceled on someone more than once? You’re not exactly doing your image any favors. Plan ahead so that you have a Plan B if something (weather, babysitter, etc.) should threaten your plans.