Annoyed by that chronically late friend’s inconsiderate behavior? From giving them an earlier time for arrival to making threats and cutting remarks, you’ve probably tried everything to change them. What you need to change is your approach, because it’s unlikely that they will permanently eliminate the behavior. And, if you’re offended by it, don’t be. Unless you’re dealing with someone who practices passive control and feels the world revolves around them, the behavior is not a reflection of how they feel about you or the level of respect they have for you. This is about them and their internal processing system, and it’s not a defect.
What’s behind chronic tardiness?
Many studies have been conducted to determine the cause and possible “fix” to habitual tardiness. Most come to the same conclusions, with three categories of behavior being the most prevalent cause of chronic lateness.
Many entrepreneurs see themselves as multitaskers and believe they function better under pressure. However, research suggests that people who believe they excel under the pressure of multitasking are not very good at it. The habit exists because they are less capable of blocking out distractions to focus on a singular task.
The act of multitasking can overwhelm this individual, which results in them losing track of time. Multitaskers will also fall prey to an irresistible temptation to do just one more thing before hitting the road.
Chasing the bright and shiny.
There’s always something more enticing than the mundane task of traveling to the next destination. One more round of a video game, another fascinating article to read, further research on the latest and greatest idea that’s on their mind. These distractions provide a mini-thrill and feel harmless enough in the moment. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to spend time with you, it’s simply is a form of interference that keeps them from getting out the door.
One study, performed by San Diego State University psychologist, Jeff Conte, found that “Type A” personalities tend to be more aware of timeliness than the more laid back “Type B” personality. What’s interesting is that the two types literally process time differently. The more highly organized, ambitious, and impatient, Type A personalities estimated that a minute passed in 58 seconds. The more laid-back Type B personality perceives that a minute passes in 77 seconds. That 18-second difference can add up.
Apparently, there’s a bit of truth in your accusation that your consistently late friend “can’t tell time.” The B personality cannot accurately judge how long a task can take.
How to manage your side of this relationship.
You may consider any or all of the above as behavior deficits, but they are all qualities frequently seen in the creative, innovative entrepreneur. As my colleague, Wanda Thibodeaux points out, frequent tardiness may point to qualities that bring success. Your friend or colleague is likely an optimist, bright and creative, and possesses an ability to think on their feet.
If you can’t beat them, should you join them?
No matter the reason, the tendency to run behind time is annoying to others. The best thing you can do is to act independently in your plans.
Don’t depend on this person to be ready on time. If waiting isn’t an option or makes you angry, make your own travel arrangements whenever possible.
Hang on to your own ticket.
Going to the theater or concert? Never rely on your friend to get you in the door. It doesn’t necessarily feel good to arrive alone, but it’s less stressful than missing the best parts of a performance.
Take a book.
If you’re meeting for a meal or walk in the park, always have an alternative means of entertainment to keep you busy while you wait. Your tablet or cell phone can keep you busy, but it’s best to know what you’re going to read or research ahead of time. That’s why a book is a good idea. Otherwise, you’ll browse aimlessly, focused on your agitated state rather than your objective to remain occupied.
Call them when you begin to worry.
It’s ok to dial up your friend to let them know you’re waiting, the nudge will probably get them moving. It also puts some of the control back in your hands, which feels good when you’re aggravated or concerned.
Let them know how you feel.
Learning to cope with this person’s behavior does not mean that you are the only one who needs to change. Resist the urge to constantly nag and complain, it won’t do either of you any good. Do discuss your feelings but avoid accusations like, “You don’t even care about how it makes me feel when you leave me hanging for thirty minutes.” Instead, own and take responsibility for your feelings and others will be more likely to respect them. Try, “I feel frustrated and anxious when I have to wait.”
Focus on what you gain from the relationship.
Let’s face it, we all get to choose our relationships. Whether it’s a relative, friend, or employee, you can usually lessen your time with this individual–or walk away altogether. If you find pleasure in being with this person and that outweighs the problem, then focus on the good, not the tardiness. When we accept what we view as shortcomings in others it somehow makes coping with them more manageable.
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