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hTownDude's avatar

How do you get your flakey friends to commit to plans without sounding mean/forceful/desperate?

Asked by hTownDude (178 points ) December 19th, 2008

I have some friends that are very wishy-washy with me. I’ll say, “hey want to do [activity] on Friday?” and they’ll say “yeah, maybe.” Then Friday will finally come and when I ask if they want to do it, they’ll say “Dude, you know what, I think I’m going to this other thing, you can come if you want.” It really pisses me off because now I’m forced to either stay home and sit on my ass or go do whatever my friend wanted to do.

I know that “maybe” is just code for “maybe I’ll go if something better doesn’t come up” and it’s extremely rude. I want to straight up respond by saying, “no maybes, it’s yes or no” but I feel like that makes me look like an uptight prick, like I am so desperate to hang out with them. It’s not that, I just hate having plans broken and getting stuck doing nothing.

So how do you handle flaky, wishy-washy friends? What do you say to prevent friends from flaking? How do you react when a friend does flake out in a mature manner that makes them reconsider their rude actions?

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32 Answers

basp's avatar

Find friendswho are not flakey.

hTownDude's avatar

Okay, so I just though I should make something clear for the future people who are generous enough to answer my questions.

Answers along the lines of “find new friends” are not accepted. Yeah, sure, I’ll just go skip on down to the ol’ friend exchange and pick up a few new friends. Really, I will eventually find new friends but for now the people I am stuck with will have to suffice, and I am asking about how to deal with them, not how to find new friends.

dynamicduo's avatar

I’m an honest person. If it keeps happening, and it affects me seriously (such as reservations at a restaurant), I will straight out tell them they were being flakey and I do not appreciate it. Sometimes I’ll do so with a humourous tone (I started calling my partner’s brother Kevin KevFlake with a jovial glare, and he got the point and is no longer a flake (of course the military training he started could be a contributer here). Yeah I know guys don’t share feelings and all that, but it’s in your right to tell your friends, “I would really appreciate a yes or a no, cause I need to finalize these plans” when you get a “maybe” as a response.

I will be planning an event soon, a potluck Christmas dinner. This is a place where flakeness cannot be tolerated. I plan on doing so through Facebook so that I can confirm exactly who is, is not, and might be coming, and manage the dishes being brought so we don’t end up with 10 pasta salads, 1 meat, and 7 desserts. I also plan on including a plea in the event description along the lines of, “Flakeness cannot be tolerated! The sanctity of a balanced and enjoyable group dinner depends on YOU! Please respond honestly so I can buy enough plates and cups etc.”

Sometimes though, you will have a friend who is always a flake no matter what you do. Just accept it as the person’s quirk. I have a friend who cannot for the life of her get anywhere on time, ever. At first I was upset (I value promptness and am always on time, if not early). But then I realized that she can’t change, but I can change things from my side. So now I book reservations at time X, and tell my friend to be there at time x minus 30 minutes. Of course I’ve told her I do this. And it works out wonderfully, we have a better relationship, all is great.

skfinkel's avatar

Why don’t you see if you can talk with them before you make the plans to see if that is what they want to do—or see what they want to do ahead of time.

Or, it might be that these are the kind of people that don’t like making plans.

So I would try these tacks and/or lower my expectations of doing specific things with them. You might just have to adapt to their ways if you want to hang out with them.

asmonet's avatar

They aren’t good friends. Confirm plans with them leading up to the date. Call them the day off to arrange last minute details.

If they keep fucking up your plans, talk to them. Explain your side without blaming them and tell them how it affects you and the relationship.

If they still won’t listen and keep flaking. Fuck em, get better friends.

steveprutz's avatar

This phenomenon happens a lot to me. And, I think going out as a duo is really uncomfortable for a lot of “friends”. Maybe try a party?

Also,
I found if I was really enthusiastic and cheerful on the phone, that more often friends would come out with me.

Another thing to try is to see them in-person instead of using messages (kind of like putting them on the spot).

Like other people said, you need to be honest and direct if you don’t like them flaking-out.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Yes, be honest with them. Put it in terms of how their behavior makes you feel. People can dispute all sorts of things, but they can’t tell you you’re not feeling something, you know? Ask them why they can’t seem to make any definite plans with you. See if you can’t get them to understand your position. Be calm and straightforward when speaking about it.

Though, if worse comes to worse and they continue to treat you with disregard, you will have to go down to the Friend Exchange (i.e. Meetup or some such activity group) and make some new friends. It’s not as hard as all that and the point is to spend more time with people who treat you with respect, consideration and care, and less time with people who don’t. If your current group of friends are rude enough to use “maybe” as “maybe, unless something better comes up,” then you have every reason to reconsider hanging out with them.

girlofscience's avatar

God, I used to be friends with this one girl who was so ridiculously beyond flakey, it was just insane. I even talked to her other friends about it, and apparently, she did it to everyone, but a bunch of people continued to put up with it…

Like, she would call me and want to hang out. I would agree, and we would make specific plans for like…30 minutes later (as in, we would plan to meet at a restaurant/bar in a half hour). I would show up on time and wait 10 minutes. Then I would call to ask where she was. And she would not answer her phone. I would call her several more times and wait another 15 minutes before giving up and going back home.

The next day, she would call me and explain that some preposterous disaster occurred within the 20 minutes between when she called me to hang out and when we were supposed to meet at the restaurant. I would say, “Uh, ok, but it would have been nice to call to let me know you weren’t coming.”

She called me to hang out a few weeks after that, and I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt for the last time and give it another shot. SAME EXACT THING HAPPENED. I was furious and left her an angry voicemail about how fucking rude it is to just not show up and not call or say anything or give any indication that you weren’t going to show up somewhere that you had made plans with your friend to meet… When she called me the next day to explain the preposterous disaster that prevented her from showing up, I was like, “I understand that things happen and plans change, but if they change, it is your DUTY as a friend to notify the other party.”

The final time I got screwed over by her flakeyness was when she was having a get-together at her apartment and told a number of friends to get there between 8:30 and 9. (Who would have thought she could flake out on BEING AT HER OWN APARTMENT?) I showed up around 8:45 and saw some other friends of hers that I knew sitting in their cars. I asked what was up; they said the door’s locked and the girl wasn’t answering her phone. We all decided to wait a few more minutes… More people had showed up by 9, and we all waited until around 9:15, and she never showed up at her apartment or called any of us to let us know what was going on…

The next day she called us all and told us about the ridiculous disaster that had happened, of course… That of course prevented her from being able to get back to her apartment in time to have the get-together that she had planned.

ISN’T THIS ABSURD??? I just could never figure out why she would ACT like that or what her deal was or why she would make plans and then not show up. To this day, I am baffled by what could have possibly been going through her head that would cause her to be so rude. It seriously makes no sense.

Anyway, the next time she called me to hang out, I said, “NO! After having been screwed by your flakeyness THREE TIMES, I am not making plans with you again! The only way I will hang out with you is if you pick me up at my apartment and take me where we are going to go together. That way, I will not risk going somewhere and you not showing up AND not answering your phone.” She agreed to do that and actually picked me up that time…hah.

It’s a shame because she was a really fun girl, but there must have been something really wacky going on that would cause her to flake like that… It definitely put a damper on our friendship. I still talk to her occasionally, but I live 8 hours away from her now, so…yeah.

girlofscience's avatar

(Sorry that my answer was a ranting story and not really an answer…)

dynamicduo's avatar

To elaborate quickly on aprilsimnel’s point, a good technique for all types of disputes is to use “I” language instead of “you” language. Phrase things from your vantage point. How it makes you feel, how it affects you. When you use “you” phrases, it gets very easy to escalate the argument or take offense at what was said, and the issue is never solved. But it’s hard to one to argue with how another feels or is made to feel by one’s actions. And even if argument does occur, it’s generally more respectable.

In my experiences I find that by using I phrasings, I can reign in my emotions (unfortunately my emotions are iron strong and generally raging like an inferno when I’m really upset, which makes it very hard to have logical discussions, reference: Vulcans :D) and keep focused at the issue at hand, whereas giving in to “you” phrasings lets my emotions come out and then I say a stupid comment and the argument goes to shit. In addition, even when I’m not pissed off, it lets me express how the frustration truly affects me and how I would like it to be remedied, which really is the bottom line in solving disputes.

Good examples: “I get upset when you do…” “I do not appreciate X…” “I would like it if XYZ happened.” “I get upset when you back out of a maybe plan because I am left unprepared.” “I would like it if you could say yes or no, or say maybe but let me know as soon as you change your mind.”
Bad examples: “You make me X…” “You are a Y…” “Why do you always do that stupid XYZ”. “Your flakiness pisses me off.” “You are a bad friend.”

Imagine a conversation between Person A and B. A: “When you say maybe but then go somewhere else without letting me know, I feel left out or feel like I’m tagging along. It kinda sucks.” B: “Oh I didn’t know that’s how it made you feel, I didn’t mean to do that.” A: “I know you didn’t mean to. We’re buddies, that’s why we’re talking here. Just next time, if you want to go somewhere else and you know it in advance, gimme a call before, ok?” B: “Sure thing man.” A or B: “Hey let’s go play some pool on Saturday.”

dynamicduo's avatar

girlofscience, holy moose on a stick, that’s pretty insane indeed. My best guess is she enjoys playing around with her friends, kinda like puppets, or maybe she likes the attention given to her when she recalls these disaster stories. That, or she is simply totally oblivious to considerate behavior when it comes to arranging and respecting times. Sometimes it’s cultural, some east Asian cultures simply place a low value on being on time or even paying attention or not falling asleep once they’re there. Regardless, I really enjoy the way you sorted it out. Not only did you stand up for yourself and make it clear how you felt, but you found and negotiated a compromise that worked wonderfully (her picking you up). Sometimes it’s solutions like this that work the best.

girlofscience's avatar

@dynamicduo: I hadn’t thought about this girl or those situations in awhile, but now that I remembered them, I’m fired up and still want to figure it out, haha.

It definitely wasn’t a cultural thing because she is American and of Jewish heritage (or do you say Hebrew?). Anyway, nothing to do with east Asia.

So, going with the puppet theory, do you think that, even when she made the initial call to hang out, she was just trying to amuse herself by the fact that her friends would go somewhere for no reason? And then wait for their calls and laugh, knowing that they had reached the destination and were sitting by themselves, wondering where she was? Hahaha, that sounds like such a pathetic game to play by yourself…

And still going with that theory, what would be the explanation, then, for her actually showing up at my apartment to pick me up and hang out? Because me sitting in my apartment waiting for her would not be as amusing to her as me sitting in a restaurant waiting for her?

Whenever we did successfully go out together, we had a ton of fun… great conversations, funny interactions, and just generally a good time. I can’t imagine that playing the flakey games was more fun than actually getting together…

As far as the disaster-story-attention theory, she definitely enjoyed attention and was a bit of a drama queen, but she had many other ways of eliciting attention, and I don’t think that adequately explains why should would so routinely flake out on all of her friends, just to tell the disaster stories.

I am still SO confused by this.

jessturtle23's avatar

Friends are people you can say anything to so tell them to stop being flakes. My friends have to say this to me all the time because my two best friends don’t like each other so I have to go with what I will enjoy the most. I kind of suck but they are the ones that refuse to get along.

CodyM's avatar

I would suggest a few things.
1: Tell your friends the truth. Tell them have you feel, and how it bothers you.
2. If they can’t handle it, find some other friends that aren’t as flakey. Keep the friends you have, just add others that you enjoy being with that aren’t so flakey, so you’ll have some other options of people to hang out with.

I personally hate people who are like that. I like making plans, sticking to it, and having a blast. I’m not saying its a bad thing to change things up once in a while, but when you plan something to happen a week in advance, and the day of the event 15 mins before people flake out…it’s just bad. Because of this, I have friends of all sorts. Flakes, preps, extremes, downers, uppers, easily-exciteds, not-easily-exciteds etc etc etc…I have a great choice of people to hang out with, not just a few.

To answer your questions:

So how do you handle flaky, wishy-washy friends?

If they’re your friends, and they mean something to you, you give them your respect by telling them the truth. A friend will tell you what you want to hear, a good friend will always tell you the truth. But at the same time, don’t do anything that’s uncalled for. Don’t lose it on them, but at the same time, try and get your point across.

What do you say to prevent friends from flaking?

This depends on if they’ve committed to it or not, and also age might factor into this one. If they agreed on coming and decided to change things at the last second, I would let it slide and just add in that they’ll be missing out(if the flake was for a stupid reason).
If they’re older, they’ll be less likely to flake for stupid reasons.
The younger they are generally, but not always, they’ll tend to flake for stupid reasons. eg: I have a friend that I love to death, but he chases girls like a dog chases cars–and he’s considerably younger than the rest of us. A bunch of the guys would plan something, and he would agree to come. But if one of our female friends asks him to come do something, even at the last second, he goes. This isn’t for all guys, just in this particular example, this is how he tends to flake out.
This also depends on personality types, and behavior. If certain friends prefer doing something else than what’s been decided upon, they’ll be more likely to flake(obviously).
Or they might agree to doing something and then that one night, they feel different, and want to do something else entirely. I have many girlfriends like this(no offense to women).

How do you react when a friend does flake out in a mature manner that makes them reconsider their rude actions?

I think I answered this above. But basically don’t lose it on them, but at the same get your point across. Communicate to them how you feel in a mature–honest way, and work it out.

I’m no expert by any means, I’ve just had a lot of experiences. Just my 2 cents

dynamicduo's avatar

@girlofscience, It could always be a “bit of this, bit of that” situation. Since we’ve clarified it’s not cultural, it must be either chosen or instilled behavior. Let’s say that she enjoys the attention, which I’m pretty sure is true based on the drama queen comment ugh. She would have to come and do something with you, or else you’d abandon her totally. You know, give you a reward sometimes, so that you’ll keep calling her and making plans that in the future she can flake on. Who knows, maybe she DID really get a kick out of it. Some people are weirdos who like strange things.

But honestly. I don’t attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity or differences in ourselves. This situation where she’s a puppet master who gets off on it does seem far fetched, but it does have some hints of reality in it, like the attention getting result she gets. She could be a late person to start with, and developed these ridiculous stories to explain the first few times she was late, and then loved the attention she got from it so she made it a habit from that point on. Since you two did have outings with enjoyable content, it is mostly likely that she was just a person incapable of having organized plans, with a touch of inconsiderateness, and a touch of narcissism and attention seeking behavior.

tinyvamp's avatar

girlofscience: omg my closest friend is like that!! i sometimes feel like i’m bothering her or something but she always texts me and calls and is all OMG LETS HANG OUT and so i will be sweet and then she will txt and be like are you ready yet? ill be like yeah so i will end up waiting for her for hours at a time and i’d text back to see if i’d get a response, nothing! its embarrassing at times because you’re all yeah i’m going out, then you have your party gear on and you wait forever and people are like, weren’t you suppose to leave hours ago? groan

she does that a lot, just vanishes and i know she has her phone with her because she is stuck to her blackberry so she is getting my messages and everyone else’s because when i’m with her she reads them out loud.

today is actually her birthday and its a playboy mansion theme, which even if i had the playboy bunny figure i wouldn’t go because every house party i go to with her she like disappears for an astronomical amount of time and then is all K time to go!

so i’m just dropping off a present which i think way too nice of me considering i was in the hospital for a while and she flaked out on visiting me, wtf?
but when she isnt flaking out on me she is the sweetest person and i can tell her anything its just her flakiness absolutely kills me!!! :( UGH

cwilbur's avatar

Be objective, practical, and clear about it. Don’t make it as you versus them, or focus on their flakiness.

“I want to go see a movie on Friday. Do you want to come? I need to know for sure by Thursday one way or the other so I can make other plans if you don’t want to go.” Then, if you haven’t heard by Thursday, make other plans that don’t include her and stick to them.

The problem is really not that your friend is flaky. The problem is that you are allowing her flakiness to control your plans. If you stop allowing that to happen, she will either get over her flakiness or you’ll stop seeing her because she can’t commit ahead of time.

JacobHoHo's avatar

Ask them multiple times, if you ask them on Monday, remind them about it again on Wednesday, and then again the day before the event. Try to ask at least 3–4 days in advance to try to avoid over-booking their schedule.
If they just plain bail out on you though, they really are not that good of friends.
Sometimes you just have to say “i need a yes or a no”, this isn’t bitchy or prick-like, its just saying what you need.

blondie411's avatar

I would confront the constant flakester about the flaking about. If they keep doing it about random plans for meeting to go shopping, lunch small things like that where they likely could have forgotten or “life could have gotten in the way” once is excusable with a phone call when you are running late but to just not show up is just wrong. Planning parties usually is a little farther in advance than a spur of the moment “lets go for lunch”. But if the flakey friend persists in either situation it would mean a confrontation from friends that is affecting. It is the only way it is going to be solved.

basp's avatar

I realize you did not like my original response (find friends who are not flakey) but the fact of the matter is, they are not much in the way of being a friend if they treat you as you describe. Friends respect each other and their behavior, as you described it, is not respectful.
Sorry if you don’t want to hear it, and I’m not being flip or sarcastic…. I am just being honest and to the point… If their Behavior is a problem for you, begin to establish new friends who really care and respect you.
You can not change their behavior. You can only change your behavior.

Nimis's avatar

After reading all the responses on this thread,
I really feel like I should apologize on behalf of flakey people.

<official apology>
Sorry we’re so damn flakey! Our flakiness is definitely something we need to work on.
But you really shouldn’t think that it reflects how much we like you.
</official apology>

Just wanted to say that I have never flaked for the sake of entertainment.
I don’t think most anyone would either. That just seems absurd.

Really, I’m just terrible at keeping track of stuff like where my phone is
(or where my phone charger is, for that matter) and seem to be perpetually late.

As for the preposterous disasters, I’m as puzzled as you
as to why I keep finding myself in them! Like attracts like?
I’m like a walking preposterous disaster.

Other times, I just find myself caught up in something
and it’s hard to snap me out of a zone sometimes.

One time, I flaked on a party because I had insomnia the night before
and had decided on a whim to tear up redecorate my bedroom.
I had to put it back in a somewhat presentable manner before my SO came home.
Mannequins were in the bathroom. And the bed was shoved in the hallway.

I’ve found the whole me-coming-to-them thing works quite nicely.
Much less stressful for them because they’re not waiting for me.
And much less stressful for me because they’re less stressed.

asmonet's avatar

“I’m like a walking preposterous disaster.”

Lurve.

Also. Why do you own mannequins?

Nimis's avatar

You mean: Why doesn’t everyone own mannequins?

asmonet's avatar

Okay, yeah, you win this round.

ronski's avatar

I wonder how you act when your friends invite you to certain events? Yes, it’s not cool to flake, and people should be more honest with you, but on the other hand people are saying “maybe”, and they aren’t completely flaking because you are welcome to come along with them at any time.

Maybe getting new friends isn’t the answer, or maybe it is. I’m not sure. It depends, do your friends do things that you strongly disagree with doing and are very uninterested in? Is that why you won’t go along with them? Or are you just hard to please?

Most of my friends are easy to please: I can call them on a Tuesday night and ask them if they want to get a falafel randomly, and we’ll do it. I’ll tell them about a party and they’ll meet me there. I have one good friend, who when I invite them to anything they reject the invitation, and we can’t make plans on a whim, so I stopped inviting her to stuff. I’m not sure if this is how you are, but it sounds like if the plans don’t meet your specific needs, than you are disappointed and unsatisfied. Perhaps you should think about loosening up a bit or hanging out with people who enjoy doing the same things as you!

NuGoonie23's avatar

OMGGGGGGGGGG…
thank god someone asked this…MAJOR props for asking this.
Wow, well to tell you the truth i had/have a friend who is always like that. I ask to chill with her, and its always like “yeahh lets do that, we havent chilled in forever” but then the day comes, and some excuse ALWAYS comes up…
the conclusion…I TOLD HER OFFF!! I was like stop “BS-ing” if your going to say yes to something dont come up with stupid stuff to get out of it, its a yes or no, ya know?

kullervo's avatar

Think about how you phrase your questions too.
Rather than – “fancy going for a meal on Friday” say “I’ve made reservations at insert resturant name and have 3 places left, you in?” Then they feel that if they don’t come not only are they letting you down but they might be preventing others from attending.

Also send reminder texts/emails. Even though I have the best intentions I often forget events I’ve been invited to or double book (guess that makes me a bit flakey too) so a helpful reminder message the next day or the day before the event really helps.

The other ways are to make them notice they are flakey without telling them. Like invite them and when they say “yeah, maybe” say “yeah right” or “so that’s a no then” and then they will usually respond “no really, I’ll be there” and they’ve doubled their commitment and are more likely to turn up just so you can’t say “I knew you wouldn’t make it”.

If you really want to press them invite other people in front of them but don’t invite them. They’ll wonder why they weren’t invited and probably ask you so you can say “I’d invite you but you’d never show up anyway”, no onle likes to admit this so they’ll protest and make a point of turning up.

But like someone said – you shouldn’t have to “trick” your friends to get them to do something. Best thing is to organise great days out and keep everyone happy so that people will love to go out when you ask them and you will be the event they bump everyone else for. I arranged a great snowboarding trip and since then everyone wants to go when I organise holidays.

candacewells4's avatar

gosh i deal with this all the time. i hate to hear that others do. i make plans with my friends all the time. and after awhile i said “you’re just gona have to tell me when we can hang out cause i’m tired of you cancelling on me.” so they make plans with me like a week beforehand. then, the day of our plans, who would have guessed? they cancel. it sucks cause i miss some of my friends bad, and really look forward to our time together. the best way i’ve found to deal with this is to just tell my friends how i feel. like what dynamicduo said, using “I’ messages. in general though, i’m thinking flaky people should be abandoned. they’re too stressful!

DarkScribe's avatar

Some people organise every aspect of their lives, like to plan ahead. I don’t – I like to play everything by ear. It would be very rare for me to make plans for a weekend (aside from special things – birthdays etc.) and if someone asks I’ll usually respond “check with me the day before, I have no idea at the moment.” I am as likely to make plans days in advance as I am to order food from a restaurant that I won’t be going to to for a week or so. My wife is very organised, I am very “seat of my pants” yet we work it all out. If we are going on an overseas trip, I’ll pack in the morning before cabbing it to the airport – my wife packs weeks in advance. I am in my mid-fifties now, but when in my late teens or early twenties, we would plan for Friday night on Thursday night or Friday daytime. Some people don’t like planning ahead but reluctantly agree just to avoid conflict – then change their mind when they think it through. When you meet someone like that – adapt, ask them the day before, not the week before.

amymya's avatar

hey I also have this problem a lot with my friends – I think it’s just to do with their general style of socialising. One thing I’m trying to do more of at the moment (which can be helpful) is to do things like plan a dinner once in a while – where people have to confirm their presence as I’ll be cooking for them. then there’s less of a chance of them pulling out. Also I think it can depend on the way you invite people – my friend suggested that sometimes when I invite by text it seems like quite a casual thing, whereas emails to individual people can be more successful. None of this really solves the problem though – I’m starting to think that maybe my friends are just particularly flakey as a group and I can’t really force them to be otherwise!

cmm428's avatar

I have the exact same problem. I have a friend who always seems to up for anything…but more often than not, flakes out at the last second. What makes me even more angry is when she just ignores your calls/texts in the couple hours leading up to the event and leaves everyone hanging…I don’t understand what could be going through her head to make her be so inconsiderate of other people and their time. And the sad thing is…she has been like this for years and always has some lame excuse to make up for her rudeness. People who behave like this do not understand the consequence of their actions upon other people. They are generally selfish and think the world should revolve around them.

So….my advice would be to just find other friends to hang out with. Don’t waste your time hoping they will change because more often than not, they won’t. But like people said before, sharing your feelings with them might help. Just remember… “What comes around, goes around.” They will regret their behavior sooner or later. Sorry, I don’t mean to be a downer, but I have learned that if they don’t think twice about flaking out on you, you should NOT waste your time worrying and wondering how you can change them. It’s not worth your TIME. You have a life to live, so live it.

Catyjan's avatar

Flakiness is not intentional. Flakes commit to plans then back out last minute for crazy reasons. Understandably, people do have a lot of stuff going on, but unfortunately, most people have extremely poor time management skills and do not know how to prioritize their life. Now it’s your turn to get back on your flakey friends!
Funny enough there is a great app called Flakey friends. It is a great way of tagging your friends publicly on Facebook and Twitter that your friend just flaked on you for whatever reason.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flakey-friends/id510328444?mt=8

Hope this helps!

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