We all of one – that friend who is never on time!
It is 1 pm on a Saturday afternoon and I am sat typing this while I wait for one of my dearest friends to arrive.
She is currently running three hours late.
No, you didn’t read that wrong – three whole hours!
For those of us who pride ourselves on punctuality, it is not unusual for us to find ourselves in friendships with people who are forever running behind schedule.
It can be stressful, anxiety-provoking, and a threat to our sanity.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Lately, I’ve been working on ways to reframe my friend’s lateness so that it doesn’t bother me so much.
Here are 7 thoughts and actions that are saving my sanity – and hopefully, yours too!
1. They are not going to change — and neither are we
By the time we reach adulthood our personality, temperament, and character is fairly fixed. That’s not to say we can’t change but it does get harder the older we get.
Change that is imposed or forced upon us from an external source will at best be resented and at worst be unsuccessful. Therefore the only chance of change being successful and long-lasting is if it comes from within.
That is, we must decide that our behaviour is bringing us consequences that are in some way negative and painful enough to push us to want to change.
So while it is possible for that always late person in our life to become punctual, their tardiness would need to be causing them enough discomfort that the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.
While we may perceive lateness to be disrespectful, it is likely that a lot of it has to do with how we are hardwired from birth.
Studies have shown that whether you have a Type A or Type B personality affects how you experience time. A Type A individual will feel a minute pass in 58 seconds, whereas someone who is Type B will feel a minute pass in 77 seconds – that’s a variation of 19 seconds!
It may be time for those of us who are punctual to stop fighting biology and choose to accept the things we cannot change so that we can focus on the things we can!
2. Their disorganisation is not our emergency
My sister was not the most organised of people. I remember turning up to her house to drive her to a hospital appointment to find her still floating around in her dressing gown. Her hair wasn’t done, her make-up wasn’t on, she hadn’t eaten breakfast and her hospital appointment was in exactly one hour!
I remember pacing back and forth while she tried on various outfits, frantically looking at my watch in the hope that time had somehow managed to stop itself.
An hour and a half later she breezed through those hospital doors, steps behind her power-walking-with-a-purpose frazzled sister, announced ‘see, I told you they’d be running late’ and calmly proceeded to eat the piece of carrot cake she’d insisted we stop to buy on the way.
Years later I was reflecting on how worked up, anxious, and panicked I’d gotten myself over that incident when I suddenly realised something important – other people’s disorganisation or lack of planning is not my emergency. If she missed that appointment? That wouldn’t have been my problem.
For those of us who are punctual, lateness can make us feel anxious and stressed. If we have a Type A personality coupled with people-pleasing and co-dependent tendencies we need to be especially mindful of what is and is not our responsibility.
In the above scenario, my responsibility was to turn up on time and drive my sister to her appointment. That’s it. It was not my responsibility to ensure she was ready when I got there or that she made it to her appointment on time.
It’s important that if we’re naturally wired to want to help, fix, save, or rescue people that we stop doing it. However hard it may be for us if there is a consequence for someone’s lateness we need to step back and let them wear that.
3. Start without them
This may sound like a brutal strategy but it bears remembering that your time is no less valuable than someone else’s.
We teach people how to treat us and so if we have people in our life that are consistently late to every get together then it’s because we’re allowing it to happen by not enforcing any consequences.
A lot of people worry that if they start doing this they’re going to come across as rude, unkind, or disrespectful and I understand that because I used to worry about those same things! But there is a way that you can enforce consequences in a loving way.
For example, let’s say that a group of you are going out for dinner and there is one friend in the group who is always late. A loving way to set a boundary might be to say something like this:
“Susan I’m so glad you’re able to come to dinner tomorrow night. We’re going to order our meals at 7 pm but I know you often have lot to do after work and I don’t want you to feel rushed so please join us whenever you can. I can’t wait to catch up.”
A message like that sets a firm boundary but in a warm and loving way.
4. If you’re getting picked up, don’t stop what you’re doing until they get there
If someone tells me they’re picking me up at a certain time I am ready. I have switched everything I was using off, I have shut all the windows in the house, my coat is on, and I am sat on the sofa with my house keys in hand.
After what I’m sure adds up to many hours of pacing and staring out the window watching for someone’s car, I have finally learned not to do this.
If you have someone in your life who is always running late be ready to go but continue what you’re doing until they arrive. Ask them to text you once they’ve arrived or to pop in and sit for a moment while you finish getting organised.
That way you get to carry on reading Bridge Jones’s Diary and they don’t feel like you’re sitting around with growing resentment waiting on them to arrive.
Trust me, if you’re prone to frantic pacing and watch checking this strategy is going to save you from a severe case of shin splints or RSI or both!
5. Set your meeting time forward by half an hour
While it may feel deceptive, this simple tip can save you from anxiety-induced heart palpitations if your plans for the day depend on a usually late friend arriving on time.
If the movie starts at 3 pm, tell them it’s 2.30pm. If you have dinner reservations for 7 pm, tell them you’ve booked for 6.30pm.
This way your plans involve some wiggle room and hopefully factoring in that extra time will ensure your friend arrives exactly when you need them!
6. Talk to them about it
If it bothers you to the extent that it’s starting to drive a wedge between you and every time you see this person you can feel your blood beginning to boil and steam coming out your ears, talk to them. It’s unlikely that they’re doing it on purpose and it’s even more unlikely that they have any idea that it bothers you.
All of us have blind spots and moments of self-absorption, if you point out how much it upsets you, you’re giving them the gift of awareness and a chance to be more mindful of how their lateness impacts on you. It may not change anything but at least you’ve been honest about how you feel.
7. Laugh about it
And finally, sometimes the best thing to do is just to laugh it off, which, coincidentally, is what I’ve got very good at doing! If I implement the tips above to minimise the impact on me then at the end of the day their lateness becomes less of a big deal.
I’m beginning to accept that one of my dearest friends in the whole world is never going to be on time but you know what? We spent the next nine hours talking and laughing so much that it didn’t matter. I’ll take my late friend who makes my sides split over someone punctual who doesn’t, any day of the week because that’s one friendship I don’t want to lose.