I’m by no means perfect. I say the wrong thing sometimes. I sleep too much. I’m disorganised as hell. But I have a big heart. If it’s someone’s birthday, I’ll show up with a present an a card. I’m upfront and honest and don’t mess people around. And if I’ve made a plan with someone, I’ll do my best to make sure I’m there.
The problem is, our society doesn’t value those qualities, so most people, well, lack them. So if you’re one of those people with a big heart, you tend to spend a decent chunk of your life being disappointed with other people when they lack the same morals that you have. This applies to a whole host of circumstances, but the one I’m going to talk about today is flaking.
We’ve all been there. When you’re buzzing about a hot date or catch-up with a friend you care about, then an hour beforehand, you get the dreaded cancellation text. Or you’ve booked a table at a restaurant for 10 people, then on the day 5 of those people pull out. It’s INFURIATING. Perhaps I have a giant neon sign on my forehead saying “DISPOSABLE”, or perhaps I’ve just been unlucky, but it seems to happen to me more than average.
In my mid-twenties, I climbed Kilimanjaro for charity and in the run-up arranged (or attempted to arrange) fundraising events. I then later moved to London knowing no-one, and attempted to build a social circle from scratch using friendship apps. During this time, flaking because the absolute bane of my life. I organised charity events months in advance, but people would pull out the week beforehand when I was already struggling to make up the numbers. During my stint on Bumble BFF, I was arranging friend dates every other week, but I quickly learned they had to be group events as about 60% of them would cancel. I was driven to the brink of insanity.
Over time, I learned to build up a sense of nonchalance, which is the best way to be- even with the best will in the world there are going to be some situations where people genuinely can’t make it anymore so you have to be flexible. At the same time though, you need to be able to assert yourself so people respect you, and draw the line at any really bad behaviour.
So here’s my quick guide on how to deal with flaking.
The First Meeting
I’ve done enough friend-dates to know that when you meet a new person for the first time- whether it someone from an app, another blogger you met on Twitter etc.- you need to go in with the mindset that there’s a good chance that they’re going to flake. If you get excited and get set for it to happen- you’ll end up going round the twist. I used to go for group meetings, but now I prefer to just take a nonchalant approach. Arrange to meet for dinner or drinks at a location that’s convenient for you, then if they bail, just metaphorically shrug your shoulders and go home.
I once made the mistake of arranging to go for a free breakfast a restaurant had gifted me with a girl from Bumble BFF as it had to be on a week day and I couldn’t convince anyone else to take a day off work. She bailed a couple of hours beforehand, I ran around like a headless chicken trying to find a replacement, then had to go alone when I couldn’t find anyone last-minute- meaning I’d lost half of the meal I was gifted. Never again.
If someone cancels the first meeting, I leave it up to them to suggest another date. If something genuinely came up, they will. But most of the time I never hear back from them.
After you’ve established a connection, the road should be smoother. But people can be inconsiderate sometimes, so it happens. And it seems to happen to me a lot- so if someone has inconvenienced me, I have a stock response that I send, along the lines of “It’s annoying that you’re not coming to X anymore because of X”. Firm but fair.
Be sparing when you use this though. For example, if one person doesn’t come to a group gathering, is it that big a deal? If someone is genuinely ill, or going through personal issues, be understanding. Or even if, for example, you had dinner plans with someone but a friend from out of town came to visit and can only do that day, try and be accommodating. But if someone’s being inconsiderate, for example, blowing you off to go to another party after you’ve booked tickets for something, that’s not fair and it’s important to speak out so you don’t end up in the doormat role.
When To Pull The Plug
At university, I ended up moving back into halls for my third year after a houseshare turned sour. I wanted to make the best of things, so I tried to be sociable and ended up befriending the girl in the room next to me. We had arranged to go out one Saturday night, but on the evening, she disappeared without a trace, and wouldn’t respond to messages. I had other friends coming so it didn’t ruin my night, but it could have done. I saw her a few days later, and she told me she had gone round her boyfriend’s house. Innocent trusting 20 year old me decided to persevere with the “friendship”- until she did the same thing again and it DID ruin my night, and I learned my lesson. Now if someone pulls a disappearing act even once (and that includes “I fell asleep”), I immediately bin them from my life.
Regarding flaking it’s a bit more tricky, as like I said even with the best will in the world things come up and plans change sometimes. But if someone repeatedly lets you down and you feel like you can’t actually trust them to show up, there’s no need for drama, just downgrade them to a party pal and stick with group events.
Overall, it’s about having a sense of nonchalance along with strong personal boundaries. So even if people can be inconsiderate sometimes, you retain your sanity and manage to claim back the sense of power.
Have you had issues with flaking? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!