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How to stop canceling plans with your friends

Today we're talking about flaking. Ghosting. Backing out.

It's a cultural phenomenon-- the idea of not following through whatever you scheduled with a friend. It's becoming increasingly common, and for some, increasingly frustrating.

We've become so comfortable doing it to each other.

You've seen the memes of how you're secretly celebrating when a friend cancels plans.

Why do we do it-- especially when it can take a toll on our friendships?

Let's say you receive an invitation to a dinner party or to get boba with a friend.

You'll probably say "Yeah, sounds good."

But here are a few things to consider:

1. Think of how you'll feel on the day of.

But you've said yes without considering how you might feel on the day of. If the event is taking place during a time when you wont' have the energy. If the event is a happy hour on a Thursday, when you now you're going to feel tapped out after a long day after the office? Are the people there the kind of people where you often feel like you're on? Consider the environment and the mindset you'll have at the time of the event.

If you're unsure, then don't say yes. Otherwise, you'll cancel.

And, let's be honest, during the week leading up to the event, you'll probably have a sense of dread about the impending gathering.

2. A firm "no" is just fine.

This may be difficult because research shows that women have a higher level of "agreeableness" than men.

We want to be liked. We want to please others. So we often say "yes" when we really want to say "no." (Note: I don't think this means that by nature we are more passive or docile. Much of this tendency is rooted in the way we are socialized and culturally conditioned. But that's for another blog.)

It's okay to says no-- especially if it means preserving your mental health and well-being.

So, when you're invited somewhere, if your first feeling is one of hesitation, then just say no. You can do it by gently declining and then offering an alternative. It looks like this:

I won't be able to come, but call me afterwards and let me know how it went!

Because if you sign up for something you secretly don't' want to attend, you put yourself in a position to disappoint others-- and to gradual create a reputation for yourself of the friend who doesn't follow through.

3. Think of the long-term impact.

Not to be dramatic, but there's a definite inconsistency between our desire for reliability and our habit of cancelling plans. One of the main qualities we look for in our friends is people we can count on, but sometimes our confidence in that can wane when they've demonstrated-- on several occasions-- their capacity to back out of a commitment they made.

[Listen to the Friend Forward Podcast episode on this subject for more ideas to stop cancelling plans on your friends.]

Let's be clear: Sometimes, yes, it's absolutely necessary to cancel plans. Unforeseen issues come up and make it impossible for us to move forward with the plans we made. Or we received a last-minute work project or our kid caught a cold and it's no longer feasible to attend the event we committed to.

But the question to ask yourself is this: Is cancelling plans your exception or the rule?

It's not that we should never cancel plans. Unexpected things come up, and that's fine. But if it becomes a pattern, then it might make us start to question how much we can rely on them in other areas of our friendship.

If this is something you've struggled for a while and you've noticed the negative impact it has on your friendships and social life, consider booking a friendship coaching session with our resident female friendship coach and educator Danielle Bayard Jackson. If you want more ongoing support, then consider joining our private group coaching program, Friendship Elevated.

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