ADVICEBURG: “Flaky friends make bad weekends”



People often dream of living in a cooperative community. Well, Anne Macleod Weeks did for 40 years. As a teacher, dorm parent, guidance counselor, coach, principal, and advisor to faculty and parents in boarding schools, she pretty much experienced all that life can throw at you. She welcomes your questions and concerns.

Submit your questions for Anne at thebarnacle.ca/advice and you will receive guidance in next month’s Barnacle!

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Dear Anne,

Ever since the pandemic, I find my friends feel more comfortable with cancelling and flaking on plans last minute with little excuse. I know that being sick and/or overly stressed and tired are valid reasons to cancel a hangout, but I’m finding it hard to build out a social calendar and get excited for things when I’m anticipating everyone to cancel. Sometimes I have friends wanting to visit from the city so I block off a weekend to show them the south shore but Friday rolls around and they decide to cancel. How do I tell my friends? I get things come up but it feels like they’re cancelling for no reason.” – Lamenting in Lunenburg

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Dear Lamenting,

I feel your pain. I have had this happen as well and more frequently than I would like. I do think the pandemic lulled us into forgetting the most basic social manners, as we just were not interacting with others in the same way. Three years of isolation and precaution can, unfortunately, break old good habits and solidify new not-so-great habits. 

Is it usually the same people? Are you able to predict who might do this? In my case, it is usually the same person/people. Rather than take the cancellation personally and succumb to frustration, there are a few things to consider.

Is it possible a combination of social anxiety and economic pressures come to a head just before the commitment? Sometimes we think we want to do something and as the time gets closer, we either realize we are unsure if we want to socialize or the economic reality of spending the money becomes too much. Other times, it has been a long week and the thought of generating enough energy to be a good companion is just too much.

What I am getting at is I suspect most often the cancellation has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with the emotional or mental space the person is in at that moment. And, if they are not in a great space, they aren’t going to think about how their cancellation impacts you. 

So, how to manage your own feelings and disappointment after planning something fun? 

First, a day or two before, text the person/people to confirm. This allows them to take personal stock of how they are feeling and to respond with a raincheck if need be. You can even say you are really looking forward to getting together but understand if they are thinking a raincheck is in order. 

Have a backup plan. If I have invited someone to dinner, I also think about who else I might go with if the person cancels. I have a few friends who are up for last minute outings, and I have often turned to them so I am not giving up something which I was excited to do. 

Did the person apologize? Sincerity is an important gauge to determine if the person is just not interested in spending time with you or if they have a legitimate reason to cancel. You can also gauge their sincerity by whether they offer to reschedule or not.

It just may be that “building out a social calendar” is no longer a priority for some people. If you are a planner, this is a hard fact to face, but I suspect the pandemic (and now even climate change) has taught a lot of us that life is becoming more and more unpredictable and therefore more and more hopeless in terms of planning. 

From one planner to another, I would most importantly emphasize this is not a reflection on you as a person, annoying as it is.

– Anne


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