A flake is a person who doesn’t follow through on agreed plans. Does she set out to be inconsiderate and unreliable? Of course not! Like the Chronically Late, or the Bad At Keeping In Touch, there’s something internal going on. Does knowing this make it any easier to take? Should we take it personally?
For those of us who have a very hard time understanding how the mind of a flaky friend works, I challenge you to think about the time that you procrastinated about going to the ATM, then found yourself out of money during a crisis (or a Starbucks craving). Or: you ran out of gas because you just didn’t feel like stopping at the gas station. Or: the very common problem of not returning an item for a refund in time, and now you’re stuck with it. You meant to do these things, but for some reason, you didn’t. Then you find yourself in trouble. . . with yourself!
There are several things you can do when dealing with a flaky friend. If the friend is actually a wonderful person in every other way, then put this behavior in perspective and simply don’t make plans that are dependent on her. You can also suggest that you need clarity, calling her on the carpet for her flaky behavior. Even if you have the distinct impression that a friend is blowing you off, it may be best to call her and say, “Okay, I’m not trying to be weird here, and I hope I don’t appear too needy, but I thought we had concrete plans and I don’t understand why you’re canceling.” There are two big benefits to this tactic: One, being brave may lead to the fact that it was a miscommunication, and, most friends–most mature friends–will be grateful that you cared enough to clear the air. Two, you will be bringing attention to the fact that, although your friend is struggling with keeping commitments or internally motivating herself, the price she will pay for this behavior is going to be high. She has let a friend down. Not only will this lead to a reputation as being flaky, but she’s also risking becoming “friend-demoted.” After all, we expect more from our very good friends than we do from casual acquaintances. (If a friend’s behavior goes beyond simple commitment problems, and there’s betrayal, or worse, please read my column about letting go.)
How about adopting this mantra: fewer expectations, fewer disappointments. It’s that simple. A little painful sometimes, but, in the long run, a lot less drama. It’s a new point of view that many of those in my circle are adopting with good results.