Opinion: Is it ever okay to be a flaky friend?

Opinion: Is it ever okay to be a flaky friend?

We lead busy lives and technology aids our ability to cancel plans at the last minute. But is it ever okay to regularly bail on people?

Sharon Green and Emma Lovell share their perspectives.

Opinion by Sharon Green

AGAINST – by Sharon Green

It’s 10am on a Sunday and I’m waiting to meet a friend at a cafe for brunch.

This is how we usually catch up – a long chat over a cup of coffee and a hot cooked meal.

I always look forward to our catch ups and today I’m particularly keen to hear about my friend’s recent trip abroad.

I’m so eager for this meeting I’ve arrived a few minutes early, secured a table and already started scouring the menu.

Then my phone pings.

The friend I’m meant to be meeting has messaged to tell me that she can’t make it to brunch.

My heart sinks, disappointment sets in. Then I start to feel annoyed.

Not only have I been stood up, I’m now lumped with the inconvenience of a last minute flaky friend. Why couldn’t she have let me know before I left my house and drove all the way to meet her?

I look around the cafe and fret about what to do next – do I try to quietly leave or should I place an order and eat brunch on my own? Both options are equally unappealing.

The sad part about this whole experience is that it’s not the first time it has happened.

I’ve noticed that people are becoming increasingly flaky, and I’m not okay with it.

Here’s why: I consider myself to be a woman of sound moral fibre. I’ve never ditched someone for a better plan, no-showed my way out of an RSVP or decided at the eleventh hour that I’d rather sit at home on the couch watching Netflix than turn up to a friend’s event that I’ve been invited to.

I am proud to say that I am not a flake. If I make plans with people, I commit to them.

I’m especially this way because I know how it feels being the person on the receiving end of flaky behaviour, and there’s nothing nice about it.

On one hand, you could say that this makes me a good friend; a reliable friend. I won’t leave my friends feeling like I’ve given up on them to do something better with my time.

On the other hand, I probably seem too rigid, strict and unforgiving of others. But that’s not the case.

I understand that unplanned disasters happen and that life throws you a curveball sometimes. I’m flexible in moments like these.

What I have a problem with is repeated flaky behaviour, when a friend bails without reason, and when they pull out of plans while you’re waiting in the cafe where you agreed to meet them.

Flaking on a plan makes the recipient feel disposable, and it is that which offends me most.

It’s obvious to see why people are becoming increasingly flaky. In a world of ever-present phones and on-the-go messaging, it has become woefully easy to bail on a plan.

I have also witnessed people in the moment that they flake – a colleague who, at precisely 6pm, sends a text to the person they are meant to be en route to meet, to say they are “swamped at work and won’t be able to leave”; another who cancels dinner plans because it’s cold and raining outside; and countless other “can’t be bothered” excuses.

But the irony in being flaky is that you rarely regret showing up.

Think about the last time you decided to commit to plans you made with others. Meeting with a friend after a bad day at work leaves you feeling infinitely better, as does showing up to a dinner party that they’ve put so much effort into hosting.

Showing up demonstrates that you truly value and respect the other person.

And here’s the clincher – you don’t have to stay until 2am, you don’t have to drink and you don’t have to be entertaining.

All you have to do is show up.

Opinion by Emma Lovell

FOR – by Emma Lovell

I’ve always been a yes girl.

Yes, I would love to come to your new show!

Yes, of course I can meet you for coffee at 8am.

Yes, let’s meet up after work for Friday drinks.

I’m the person who will always back up and show up. If I say I’ll do something, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be there.

However, this constant agreeing to plans and activities begins to take its toll. More than once in my life, I’ve completely burned out.

Due to work, study, family situations or all of the above, I’ve hit a wall and been at my lowest. All of a sudden, I can’t bear the thought of seeing another person, going out or doing anything.

Cancelling on plans is the worst. I’m the first to admit it! I hate it. But sometimes it’s necessary, and that’s why I’ve recently adopted the “it’s okay to be a flake” mentality, for self-preservation.

I remember a few years ago when I was struggling. My diary was packed to the rafters with work and social stuff. I would go from one gig to the next and swing by a party, drinks or meet up with a friend right after. I was always on the go.

Working at a wine and music festival one day, I looked around at these people just casually sitting on picnic rugs, chatting with friends and laughing. I thought “What are they doing? Don’t they have anything to do?”

How sad! I felt there needed to be a purpose, a goal, a reason for every activity.

If I wasn’t making money or ticking something off the list in some way, shape or form, then I wasn’t getting involved.

At the time, I was only going to things because I said I would and because I had committed to it. It’s what was expected of me because I’d said yes.

That’s not a sustainable way to live and unfortunately, so many of us do things out of obligation. We do it because we think it’s what others expect and want from us. It’s people-pleasing.

Yes, I admit, I am a people-pleaser.

My psychologist told me this during a particularly difficult time: “Saying no to their needs means saying yes to yours”.

I wrote this on a post it and stuck it to my mirror. I wrote another which said “boundaries”.

I’m not saying it’s okay to bail on plans left right and centre. Not at all. But be aware of your limitations, your boundaries, and plan around it. It’s something I’ve had to learn to do over time.

I’m not the energiser bunny, I can’t keep going and going and going.

So, when a friend does cancel or change plans, have some grace and show a little compassion. Ask them if they’re okay. There might be something more to it than them simply flaking out.

Now, I check in with myself before making plans. I ask myself: “Will this make me happy?”, “Is this something I want to do?”, “Does my friend really need me to be there?”

Sometimes, the answer is yes. Deep in my gut, I hear yes, and I know it’s something I’ll be pleased that I did. Other times, it’s a no.

I have learned that it is okay to be a flake sometimes. I’m fine with having to cancel or pull out of something if I’m only doing it because I said I would. If it’s going to leave me drained, exhausted or feeling like I’ve self-sacrificed, I politely notify the person that I won’t be attending.

We can’t always plan ahead, as Sharon points out, because sometimes things come up and we do need to cancel unexpectedly, and that’s okay.

But when it comes to making arrangements, do yourself and your friends a favour and check in with your diary and yourself before committing.

You can have the best of both worlds – being a good friend and being kind to yourself.

TELL US: What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s okay to flake? Share your views in the comments section below.

Emma Lovell, She Defined author

Emma Lovell

Emma Lovell is a writer with a passion for travel, social media and adventure.

When she’s not travelling, she’s documenting her stories and planning the itinerary for her next journey.

Based on the Gold Coast, she loves getting to the beach and soaking up the best her local area has to offer.

Sharon Green, editor

Sharon Green

Sharon Green is the founding editor of SHE DEFINED.

An experienced journalist and editor, Sharon has worked in mainstream media in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Forever in search of a publication that confronted the real issues faced by modern women, Sharon decided to create her own.