We All Need to Stop Flaking
Hiding behind a device has made it INFINITELY easier for all of us to be, for lack of a better word, “flakes”.
I don’t mean flake as a judgment of someone’s character. I’m talking about anyone – guy or girl – who makes plans with people but then always cancels on them.
The flaking phenomenon has spread because we no longer have to cancel plans with someone face-to-face. We avoid the typical guilt we feel when backing out of a commitment and possibly hurting someone else’s feelings.
I can theoretically understand why some people never commit to dates in the first place. I can understand why they just ignore someone’s requests to meet up as a form of rejection. This way, they get to protect themselves from confrontation.
What I can’t understand are all the people making plans and then consistently flaking at the last minute. They string someone along and make excuses for why they suddenly can’t make the date.
It’s disrespectful, inconsiderate, and straight-up RUDE. And yet everyone’s doing it.
The grim reality of modern dating
This scenario happens weekly…
A person I know (friend or client) plans a date days in advance with someone. They usually text back and forth with the new person leading up to the date.
Then, within 24 hours of the date, they message to confirm everything’s still good. Out of nowhere, they get a reply saying “something came up” or “I can’t make it”. Sometimes that reply comes in just an hour or two before the scheduled time. Sometimes, it even comes after.
The flake almost NEVER takes the initiative to cancel plans — it’s always in response to the other person checking in.
Of course, I understand that there are valid reasons for bailing on commitments. Shit happens. Life gets hectic.
But this happens so often to everyone I know that this can’t always be the case. Because even though life gets busy, everyone manages to find time to get done what they need to get done…and have a little fun, too.
And think…only ten or fifteen years ago, people somehow followed through with plans all the time. You’d meet someone or talk on the phone, make plans, and you’d both show up. It was rare to have someone call you at the last minute and cancel. If they did, they almost always rescheduled then and there. People wouldn’t agree to seeing someone they weren’t serious about.
But now, people don’t hesitate to abandon plans for the next best thing. I believe this is a product of our endless choices for new partners and activities, as well as not having to confront the people we reject.
Making plans is seen as flexible and people don’t feel bad about backing out on them.
What’s the big deal if you flake on someone?
I think a lot of people don’t grasp how destructive this is. They think flaking is not a big deal. They justify their behavior based on the fact that they don’t even really know the person and it’s “just one date”.
They fail to realize it’s not about the other person missing out on a single date. It’s about them losing their time. And in today’s world, time may be the most valuable thing we have.
When you make plans with someone, they clear their schedule for you. Many dates are on the weekends which may be the small amount of weekly freedom this person has. By cancelling last minute, you’re making it extremely difficult for them to come up with other plans.
They can’t easily setup another date or find available friends and family to spend time with. They lose out on precious moments or connections in their life because of it. They’re potentially missing out on someone else who would be interested in them.
Some people schedule overtime, do side jobs, or work on their entrepreneurial projects during off days. Again, flaking on them last minute can mess that up and cost them money. Because their time literally is money.
The consequences of flaking are much greater than you’d like to admit. Let’s put yourself in their shoes and envision what would happen if the world worked like this.
What if making plans lost all meaning?
When you make plans with someone, you’re engaging in a verbal agreement that says, “I will do my best to show up unless something truly unfortunate or unexpected happens.” It’s not a legal contract but a promise in good faith.
This idea is basically how society functions.
You reserve a table at a restaurant or schedule a medical appointment, you’re expected to show up. If you can’t make it, you’re supposed to provide ample notice so they can try to fill your spot and minimize losses. Many medical professionals even charge you for being a no-show.
Vice versa, if you have an appointment with someone — they’re expected to hold it for you. Imagine if you made dinner reservations with friends and an hour beforehand the restaurant told you they couldn’t accommodate you. How furious would you be?
Can you just regularly cancel out of work on a whim? Or would that be seen as irresponsible and eventually cost you your position?
What if you booked a flight home to see family and the airline cancelled your ticket the day of? Even if they refunded your money in full, you’d be outraged.
If nobody took plans seriously, there’d be chaos everywhere. The uncertainty and frustration would take a massive toll on all of us. Entire systems would come crumbling down.
We don’t tolerate or perpetuate this behavior in our daily life. So why is it okay to do this in our romantic life?
Why some people flake
While some people selfishly book multiple plans and then pick their best option the day of, I don’t believe the majority of people flake for malicious reasons. They just end up in situations which make them reconsider their choices, such as:
- They discover better plans with friends or even by themselves.
- They find someone else that they’re more interested in meeting up with.
- They’re stressed or have anxiety which stops them from wanting to see you.
- Rarely, they actually forgot and aren’t prepared when the time comes. (Tip: If you’re someone who easily forgets things, create a calendar reminder the moment you schedule plans.)
Then they let one of these reasons overpower their commitment and flake out on people. But I’m sorry to say that these are not valid excuses for disrespecting someone else’s time — especially if this is a regular occurrence.
If this sounds like you…you need to stop getting yourself into situations like this. Because every time you do, you hurt people. You cause more anger, resentment, and pain for all parties involved.
Our generation is causing a huge rift in trusting one another. We’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where everyone flakes on everyone preemptively because we expect them to do the same.
It’s gotten to the point where some people don’t even get excited about dates anymore. They assume the worst will happen — and it inevitably does. It’s time to put an end to this shitty behavior.
How to avoid flaking and cancel on people the right way
Here are 5 basic rules we all need to follow to fix the flaking epidemic:
1. Only make plans you intend to follow through on. Don’t confirm a date thinking “we’ll see how I feel when the time comes” or as a backup plan. You should be as certain as possible in that moment that you want to spend time with this person barring unforeseen circumstances.
That also means you shouldn’t make plans out of guilt. Too many people confirm a date before they’re ready because they’ve feel they have to (especially if they’ve been talking for a while.) When really, you don’t owe that person anything. But once you make plans with them…THEN you do.
This is the best way to avoid having to flake on someone in the first place!
If you’re not sold on someone, I’d rather you wait and be upfront rather than back out later. You can always say, “I need more time to feel comfortable.” or “Can we keep talking for a little so we can get to know each other better?”
This way, at least you’re honest with your expectations. It’s then up to the other person to decide if they want to keep spending their time talking to you. If they don’t want to, they can move on and spend their time how they’d prefer.
2. If you catch yourself wanting to flake…don’t. An important lesson growing up is that your decisions have consequences. You made a commitment to someone and you should follow through unless there’s a legitimate emergency.
Like I said — maybe you’re feeling anxious or a different activity came up. You’ve got to suck it up and challenge yourself. Facing your social anxiety through real-world experience is the best way to build confidence. And meeting up with this person may turn out to be more of a fun, memorable experience than you ever imagined.
Maybe you’ll gain new insight from that person. Or you’ll learn how to engage someone who’s quite different than you. Or you’ll discover how to appreciate connecting with a new person even though you aren’t romantically interested in them.
At the most, you can show up politely for an hour, give it a shot, and leave if you’re not feeling it.
3. If you absolutely can’t or don’t want to follow through with plans, give them as much notice as possible. At the end of the day, you can back out of any plans you damn well please. I believe in personal freedom and choice above all even if it’s not the nicest way to behave. But if you decide to flake on someone, do your best to minimize the damage.
Whatever the reason for cancelling, tell them the second you know it’s off. It might be awkward or uncomfortable but it’s the most compassionate way to handle things. At least you’re giving them the chance to better utilize their time.
4. If you actually want to see the person again, be the first to suggest new plans. Obviously, you don’t have to reschedule with someone you’re not interested in. But if you ARE still interested and the current plans just didn’t work for you, immediately tell them when you’re next available.
I witness so many people cancel on someone, apologize, and then say nothing. They instead wait for the other person to chase them down and create plans again.
When you flake on someone, it’s your job to make it up to them. Show them respect and make it as easy as possible to schedule a new time.
5. If you don’t want to see the person again, reject them as quickly and honestly as possible. Sometimes, you genuinely realize you don’t want to meet up with someone. Maybe you met another person and you’re ready to go exclusive. Maybe your conversations AFTER making plans helped you realize you’re not a good fit.
So when you cancel, also let them know you’re not interested in meeting up anymore. Don’t text them for days because it’s fun or validating. Don’t keep telling them you’re unsure of your schedule and give them false hope. And please don’t ignore them until they feel like garbage not even worth 10 seconds of your consideration.
It’s as simple as, “I have to be upfront, I’m just not interested in getting together anymore. Sorry for any inconvenience and best of luck.” or “I don’t want to waste your time. You seem like a great guy/girl but I actually met someone that I want to keep seeing instead. Take care and I hope you understand.”
If you’re really that worried about dealing with fallout, you can always unmatch or block the person after turning them down.