Why Are Some People Always Late?

Question: Dear Luise: Is there any way to effectively deal with people who are chronically late? I know it must be a habit because there are many people who are never late. I have a dear friend who drives me nuts. There is no talking to her about it, so don’t suggest that! She doesn’t see herself as I do. She thinks every situation is unique and a departure from her norm, which is punctuality. I get so mad, I think I am just going to end the friendship but I never do because I really like her. I’ve also tried to ignore it but that’s pretty hard when you are sitting watching the clock and fuming, yet again. Do you know anyone like that? What do you do about it? Thanks, Jenna

Answer: Dear Jenna: Yes, I know someone like your friend. I think everyone does. I also had employees like that when I was in the corporate world but that was very different, since I controlled their paychecks. Habits can be broken if there is sufficient motivation.

The problem you are addressing is how to motivate you friend. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you can’t. The only problems you can effectively address are your own. This one belongs to someone else, and you are in a secondary position.

One very basic approach to deciding what you can do about your part of it, which is how you feel when constantly being left to wait and fume, is to determine if she is worth it. You say you really like her. How much? It sounds like you have been hanging on looking for change. Can you continue to do that and accept that it’s a package deal, and the tardiness goes with the territory? That may not be as easy.

Assuming that you are able to get that you are stuck with your friend’s thoughtless behavior…let’s take it further. It is now your problem. OK? There are many ways you can let up on yourself by tempering your reactions. Be late yourself…not to get even, but to get realistic. I know, I know that’s not easy…but just tell her that you will try to be there promptly at the prearranged time but to wait for you if you don’t make it. Then, turn up when she usually does. What’s that…15 minutes or a half an hour after the fact? You can also tell her in advance that if she’s not there when you arrive, you may run a tiny errand, so please wait. Then, shop for a bit or grab a snack.

The point is for you to lighten up. There are many reasons people are chronically late. Some learned it as kids from their role models, some want the attention that gets focused on them and some, according to psychologists, are being passively aggressive. Do you care what’s going on with your friend? Probably not if it won’t help to bring about any change. So have her be how she is and modify your self.

Once you are no longer seriously at the effect of your friends’ chronic tardiness, you will feel much better. And don’t give up, one day she may decide it’s more bother than it’s worth. Blessings, Luise

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