7 ways to deal with your chronically late friend

Guest post by Lisa Birch

I have always been that person who is a little bit early. Then, enter a new friend who has the chronic lateness bug. Which would be fine… except the bug stays… and becomes your best friend.

Some advice you’ll often hear from those also dealing with the chronically late, is to tell your friend the wrong time. If you’re supposed to meet for coffee at 2:30, tell her to meet you at 2 instead. This doesn’t work.

Other people would say that “a good friend would make more of an effort.” I don’t agree. Although people who are often late can be on time for things they need to be there for, I find that it is the less structured times of social hang outs and cinema trips that can cause headaches. Another friend of mine finds being on time to everything an undue stress, and doesn’t conform to time schedules for her mental health.

After a year of dealing of my friend’s lateness to most events, a mutual friend and I held a mini-intervention. There wasn’t an ultimatum, but the premise was that Things Had To Change. Unfortunately, the thing that had to change was me.

So here are my tips for dealing with your chronically late friend…

1. Meet somewhere you don’t mind waiting

For me, usually it is my house, or somewhere I will keep busy, like a mall.

2. Decide not to watch the clock

Do something to take your mind off waiting. Read a book, do something creative or call a friend. Soon you won’t be waiting for someone, you’ll simply be being expecting them.

3. Confirm your get together the day before

Chances are that your friend totally remembers, but while you’re counting down the minutes the next day, you might find yourself panicking and wondering if your friend forgot.

4. It’s okay to tell other people that so-and-so is usually late

Sometimes people who aren’t aware or don’t really know the late-comer very well, will start nagging you. Or making “helpful suggestions.” Or question whether the person is actually coming. Ignore this.

5. If you’re eating out, just order from the menu

I have always figured that if I am running late, I’d much prefer someone to be happily doing things (eg. slurping down a hot chocolate), rather than standing outside a cafe, writing endless text messages asking, “where are you?”

6. Call once you start feeling a little tired, or frustrated

If you give a grace allowance of about 15 minutes, then phone, they have a much more accurate time of arrival, as opposed to calling right on your meet up time.

7. When they arrive, just be nice

Some people will tell you why they were late, others won’t worry about the excuses. You’re there to see your friend, not to be their time keeper.

Over time, my family and friends have came to know lateness as a trait, rather than a defect. They have stopped nagging about where my best friend could be, and have started asking if we should save some dinner for them. The acceptance of the crowd certainly helps.

It all can be frustrating, I know, but a truly good friend is worth waiting around for.

What are the hacks you’ve implemented to help you deal with your friend who’s always late?

Comments on 7 ways to deal with your chronically late friend

  1. I think there are some great tips here. But at the same time, if someone is chronically late or unreliable, it is also important to call them out. They are encroaching on your time – and to me, being really late is assuming that my time is unimportant or less important than theirs. I think while we can all be a little more flexible, there comes a time when you have to gently raise the issue.

    What I do is ask the person if they are definitely going to be there on time, or say “I don’t really want to be waiting around at the party by myself, so let me know that you are running on time”.

    Would love to hear how others address this.

    • To a large chunk of chronically late people, calling us out won’t fix anything, it just makes us feel more self-loathing than we already do for being late. I don’t want to be late. I hate being late. I feel guilty and stressed and awful. And yet, my brain plays games with the clock every time I need to leave the house. Without a herculean effort, I’m usually at least 15 minutes late. I’m working on it, but it’s really f’ing hard to change.

      • Exactly. I was always chronically late my whole life and I felt awful when people got frustrated with me, but it’s honestly like my brain doesn’t understand how time passes. I wake up early, I make intricate schedules mapping out how long everything should take giving myself a grace period, and then I look up at the clock and realize that the 5 minutes I thought it took to grab my shoes and purse have become 20 and I can’t account for it. When people start complaining about how tardy people have no respect for other’s time I get a little angry because it has nothing to do with you…I don’t do it on purpose and it often feels out of my control.

      • Have y’all ever considered that you may have ADHD? Chronic lateness and a lack of time sense is really common for ADHDers. Medication can help, but if you’re like me and can’t really use it, things like the Pomodoro Technique can help you develop a sense of time. Also, iOS’s “Time to Leave” alarm feature in the calendar is a lifesaver for me.

  2. I wouldn’t be able to handle this. If you don’t want to see me when you agree to see me, then I assume I’m not that important to you and I stop making plans with you.

    • Something to consider: your chronically late friend or loved one may have ADHD or another neurodevelopmental condition that skews or erases their sense of time. They may tend to underestimate how long things really take or be overly optimistic about a timeline. In short, they may not be able to help it.

      Things like the Pomodoro Technique, block scheduling, and helping them to understand that, when they schedule things, they also need to take into account travel, prep, and cleanup times into their scheduling. I almost ALWAYS have my phone set to tell me when I need to leave for an appointment I’ll need to drive for so I have enough time to get there.

    • But that goes both ways.if you can’t live with their flaws, you shouldnt be friends. My best friend is always late and I have watched her try to leave the house, it is not her fault. I just go with it and don’t fret over time too much because the time we do spend together is priceless.

  3. What about people who are an hour or more late? That just seems incredibly disrespectful of my time. We had a friend (prior to him moving away) where we’d tell him we were having lunch at 11am and we’d all get together at noon. He walked in at 12:05 to see the rest of us already sitting down and ready to order. We may not mind waiting but we all had other stuff we wanted/needed to get done that day so the only way to actually spend time with this friend was to lie to him. I never heard if there was a reason (like OP’s friend’s stress) that he was late beyond carelessness.

    Another friend, another situation: the perpetually tardy friend said to his buddy that they hadn’t had a chance to hang out for a while so buddy suggested they get together for lunch (it’s a coincidence that both these examples include lunch). Tardy friend agreed, they pick a time and place. Buddy confirmed via text to friend the day of the lunch. Buddy arrived to lunch first, sat down, texted friend that he was there, and reviewed the menu to decide what he wanted. Friend lived ten minutes away from the lunch spot. Fast forward: Buddy has eaten, paid, and left the lunch place. Tardy friend still has not shown up despite the lunch being his idea. He simply had not left his house yet. No crisis, he just got side tracked puttering around his house and said “Oh, Buddy won’t mind if I’m a few minutes late.”

    • There’s late and then there’s no-show, which is quite different. I’m one of those regularly-10-minutes-late people, and it’s entirely because I fall into the CLIP trap (Google the article). But the whole time I’m late, I’m in a panic over the thought of a friend waiting. I send lots of texts with updates on where I am and apologies. Probably still annoying, I know, but someone who doesn’t bother to show up at all or text that they’re on their way? That’s someone who totally just doesn’t care.

    • I have a friend who was once two hours late to her own birthday party that she planned! Thank goodness she has gotten better about being on time, but the main thing I have done to make hanging out with her less stressful and more fun is #1: meet somewhere I don’t mind waiting.

  4. Really good list! I can imagine this coming in very useful, especially with Christmas looming and all the associated events coming up.

    I would also add if you really need everyone to be on time for something make sure you not only tell them that but tell them WHY. I find people are much more willing to make an extra effort if they know there’s a good reason for it.

    For example when we were going to watch a friend’s play she made sure everyone was aware that the theater is not like the cinema – if you arrive after the start time they do not let you in, and this was totally out of her control. It was polite and a totally reasonable request but I think it got the point across and made sure everyone planned to arrive early.

  5. I am one of those people that gets incredibly stressed out about being late. Or the thought of being late. My husband is one of those people who is always late. Like, knows that he needs to be somewhere at 8pm and just assumes that means leaves house at 8pm.

    We finally figured out that the only way we’d make our relationship work is if I just don’t wait for him. If we need to meet people for dinner at 8. I leave at 7:30 when I am ready and he leaves at 8:15 when he finally realizes what time it is. Because me standing at the door tapping my feet and staring at the clock only stresses both of us out. We don’t get out the door any sooner and neither of us enjoy the night. Now I leave when I am ready. He leaves when he is ready. And neither of us gets stressed out.

    • I have a similar dynamic with my husband, me usually a little early, him usually a little late. What works for us is if it’s my friends/plans, he makes the effort to be ready to leave on time. When it’s his friends/plans, I don’t watch the clock and nag him about when we need to leave.

  6. As a chronically late person, thank you for this!

    I CAN be on time, sometimes, for very crucial things, but it takes an enormous amount of effort and stress and usually it’s STILL just in the nick of time, no matter how ahead of time I think I am. But managing the clock to the minute is just not a strength of mine–just as someone who’s not good with numbers, or has a bad sense of direction.

    I do best with time ranges, also because I tend to take on too many events and I don’t like to miss anything or let anyone down… so instead of picking event A over event B, which overlap by a few hours, I go to event A first and leave early to make it to event B late. This way I’m able to do both instead of choosing which one to skip. Obviously this only works when it’s a group event without a strict timeline; I wouldn’t purposefully make one or two people wait on me, for example, if we had a dinner date. But generally speaking if I’m only 10 minutes late people are surprised that I’m so close to on time! And I’m pretty damned proud of myself too. ha.

    I have a job with flexible hours, and I’m so lucky to have a boss in a department that is okay with this (as long as my work gets done, as it always does). If I didn’t, I truly think I’d develop some serious health issues as a result of the unending stress and pressure. I wouldn’t be able to live day-to-day with that unnecessary panic all the time.

    I do still feel badly about my lateness and still do try my best to make it to places on time. But it’s incredibly difficult. I have no idea why. When I have a half hour before I need to leave, I’m watching the clock, and getting things together, I think of more things that I could do before I need to leave (feed the cats, put away the dishes, grab an apple for a snack later, etc.) and all of a sudden it’s 15 minutes past the time I needed to leave by and I still have to stop at the store for the gift and FUCK where are my keys?? This is me pretty much every day. And once I’m at the point where I realize–shit, suddenly I only have 7 minutes before I’m supposed to be there and it’s a 20 minute drive–I still rush but try not to panic, or speed, or drive unsafely. I resign to the fact that I’m going to be a little late, again, and when I have a chance at a red light I text my ETA with an apology.

    I also don’t ever expect anyone to wait for me, for anything. If I’m late to a meeting, it’s my fault and it’s my responsibility to catch up. If I’m late for dinner I fully expect everyone to order before me (and tell them so). I try not to let my lateness inconvenience anyone except me, although I know that’s not always the case I do make an effort.

    I hope other people can do as the author does and recognize that being on time is just something that some people simply aren’t good at–it’s not a slight against you or an inconsideration to the world in general. At least, for most chronically late people, I think.

  7. As someone else noted, if it is a chronic problem, it needs to be dealt with. Does your job allow you to be chronically late without repercussions? No. It’s about being an adult and learning time management. It may be more of a struggle for some people to stay on schedule, but that doesn’t mean your friend has to be the one to pay the price. Assume some responsibility and fix the chronic tardiness. I have no problem with friends who are only ten minutes late, but if you are chronically 20+ minutes late, I assume that you think your time is more important than mine and start making less time for you. I don’t think that is unreasonable. I also have things to get done and I DO stick to a schedule.

    • Yeah, I sound like a horribly judgmental person on this thread, but I have to agree with you. I just don’t see lateness as something that has to be accepted. Social anxiety? I get that, I can accept that, I can work with that. But just being late because you couldn’t get organised and it’s not a strength? Nope.

      I’m the opposite extreme where my day is extremely scheduled, and if someone is late, everything gets thrown out. That’s totally on me, and I can accept that people will be late from time to time. However, there’s a difference between that and just being rude enough to not be on time, not communicate, and leave me waiting long after our agreed meeting time. The message I get is that my time is worth far less than theirs, and if it happens a few times with no explanation, I generally don’t catch up with that person anymore, or only invite them to big events where their tardiness won’t be noticed. I get extremely stressed and anxious worrying if the friend is ok/if I should or shouldn’t call/if I might be a nag for asking where they are/worrying about what to do next/stressing about the time I’ve wasted not doing a stack of other things while that person can use the time however they like.

      As much as I want to understand, I just cannot get on board with the idea of accepting chronic lateness – unless it’s a symptom of something much more serious.

  8. I’d also advise not doing things that require a specific time. If they’re regularly an hour late, either don’t go out to movies or make plans to go to lunch in the same strip mall an hour and a half before you need to arrive at the movie theater. And if they don’t show up, feel free to see the movie by yourself.

    My chronically-late friend growing up could show up on time if it was important, but didn’t always. Movies were fine. My birthday party was fine. Our weekly hangout with a bunch of other people, she was two hours late most weeks.

  9. I can agree with some points of your article, but I still maintain that it’s absolutely rude to keep people waiting. If you are unable to make it on time, the very least you could do is send me a text/give me a call, so I can make the decision to either wait or leave. I just can’t imagine that tardy people are unaware that they are running late in the first place.

    For me it’s also a point of mental health: if you are late, I’m going to assume you ended up in a proverbial ditch somewhere and are actively dying, unless you’ve given me some sort of notice.

    I also refuse to lie to friends about starting times. If we agree on meeting at noon, I’m going to assume we meet at 12. I’m not going to schedule for 11 and hope you’ll be there ate 12. It would put undue stress on me, because if you are on time this one time, you will have made me late.

    • My parents would have to lie to one set of friends about meet times. If they wanted to see the 1pm movie, they would say lets see the 11am movie knowing they would be late and sometimes they would still be 20 minutes (or sometimes still 2 hrs late). My dad finally had to bitch them out (this is after my dad said F*** it and we all saw the movie without them). Strange thing is that since he worked with the husband. The husband would be to work on time and same for the wife. It was just social stuff they would be late for (as mentioned, work, doctors appts., weddings/funerals/bar/bat mitzvah’s they would be on time for). Not sure why they think being 2 hrs late to a movie or dinner plans were fine (did I mention that we did not live near these people, so they knew they we would have to drive another 1.5 hrs to visit, so it was not like we could go home (well we could)), but other “social” stuff like weddings they would be OK with being on time.

  10. This is actually a helpful post! I’ve also read a lot of articles advising people to end friendships with chronically-late friends. Luckily, I quite like arriving early, ordering something to drink, and people-watching alone as I ease into the surroundings before my friend arrives.

    Of course, they don’t need to know that! I sometimes suggest that they buy me dessert if they are looking for a way to apologize 😉

  11. How do chronically late people deal with jobs, appointments and such? My doctors surgery needs you to book in 10 minutes early and if you miss two appointments then they will happily take you off their patient records. I’ve never known an employer be happy with perpetually late staff. Genuinely intrigued as to how late people get through daily life

    • I think my lateness tends to vary with how comfortable I am and how dire the consequences are for being late, but it’s not usually a conscious calculation. For an interview, I’m early enough to be at a coffee shop nearby because I know I tend to be late and I’m really freaked out. For the first week or two of work, I’m 5-10 minutes early. trending toward right on time. By the time I settle in, I’m fighting every day to stay within 15 minutes late.

      My old job had a time clock where 0-4 minutes after your scheduled shift time didn’t count as late, but 5 minutes was late and counted against you. 3 lates in a period and you’d get a warning. Another 3, you’d be written up. Final 3 and you’re fired. I was pretty frequently on verbal warnings and I got written up at least once, always for being 5-6 minutes late. After the warning, I’d go through a period of “Okay Val. We need to be on time. We have to leave by X:XX.” That would usually stick for about a week before I was back to running for the time clock. I think my brain likes efficiency, and assumes nothing will ever go wrong on my commute.

      I’ve spent a lot of time thinking this problem and I’m actively working to make it better, but it also takes me a lot of conscious willpower every time to not be late.

    • I have found it’s unstructured/social occasions that are the real problem, my friend doesn’t have a problem getting to work on time (it is only a few minutes drive from her house though so maybe that helps). Unfortunately, what is important to her and what is important to her friends don’t always align, which doesn’t really make her a bad/careless friend, just a time challenged one. I have no doubt that people have and will end friendships over time management skills, but I decided this wasn’t a choice for me.

    • I actually put things in my calendar half an hour before they’re actually scheduled for, but I only do it for about half of my appointments, so I never know which ones actually begin later. It leads to me being early at least half the time. 🙂 I’ve also started trying to work against my own time-deafness by programming my phone to notify me in ten minute intervals when I have to be somewhere.

    • I’ve had problems with this at previous jobs. For work I’m usually only a couple of minutes late. 5 at the max. I have gotten in trouble for this at several jobs honestly, and I try really hard but I have a huge problem judging and keeping track of time. I understand that being late to a shift is unprofessional, but sometimes I get frustrated that all my hard work doesn’t seem to count at 9:01 versus 9:00. I’ve done best at jobs where arriving “around” a certain time (from 5 minutes before the hour to 5 minutes after) is acceptable. I worked from home as an artist for 7 years so I didn’t have to deal with tardiness because if I started work late the only person I was hurting was myself. Now I’ve been having a better time because I take the bus to work and it drops me off 10 minutes early. I’m always barely making my bus on time but I know a minute means making my bus or not so I wake up early and try to keep a strict schedule. On the tardy days I miss my bus I still have plenty of time to drive so I show up on time, but parking is expensive so I try really hard to make the bus. I’m still rushing and scrambling in the morning but because my target time is ten minutes early I’m not late anymore.

    • On a daily basis, I manage by having a very strict schedule and not allowing myself to do anything other than eat, get dressed, get kid fed and dressed, snacks packed. I have a shit sense of how long things take, so I have to have the schedule to keep me on task and out the door on time.

      But one-off events? To someplace I haven’t been? Super stressful, punctuality-wise. There are SO MANY variables to take into account. Does it take 15 minutes to get there? 30? Is there a bus? Does the bus leave on time or is it unreliable? Is the traffic bad or light at that time of day? Is there parking? Will I have to walk? Will I get lost? Should I allow an extra hour for screw-ups? Half an hour?

      And if I have my child with me, then it compounds, because rushing a preschooler is difficult, but so is entertaining a preschooler if we’re too early.

  12. My best friend is also the sort to be chronically late. Late for appointments, late for work, late for any plans we have made. After many years of frustration, and trying to help her in any way that I could, it finally occurred to me what the problem might be.
    In school when I was a kid, they taught us that we have five senses- taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell. As an adult I learned we also have some less tangible senses. We have a sense of motion, for example. And we have a sense of time. Some of us can feel time as it passes, can sort of unconsciously keep track of it. And some of us are what I’ve been calling time-deaf. My best friend constantly thinks only a few minutes have passed, and it will have been hours. I think it may be as much a medical malady the same way blindness is.
    Let’s be clear this is simply my opinion, and I have no scientific data to back up my beliefs. I’ve never even heard of a study about this. But thinking of her lateness as a medical issue has helped me have patience with her, and in turn has saved her a lot of frustration, I think. She doesn’t like being late. She has had lots of issues with work because of her lateness, and she’s tried all kinds of things to help her be on time, none of which have worked. I’ve reached a point where I understand that her lateness is not a lack of caring or effort.

    • This happens to me too. I usually refer to it as “time travel”, though you can only go forward, literal hours can pass while you’re off somewhere in your head, oblivious to the passage of time. Being able to identify the problem has made it much easier for me to deal with. I schedule my day in blocks of time, usually more than needed for each step, and then I actively avoid things that will distract me and be time pits. Something new in the mail? Read it later. New Facebook notifications on my phone? Ignore ignore ignore!

    • YES! Total time-deafness. I posted this above, but the Chronically Late Insane Person could easily be summed up as time-deaf. http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/07/why-im-always-late.html

      And the person above who said that late people see time as one of those recipe video clips, where all the stages happen but take under 30 seconds is dead on. It’s like despite being in my 30s, I have no real sense of how long things actually take.

      And lest anyone think the repercussions are limited to social relations, this inability to determine time is a serious problem professionally, too. I end up listing 2 days worth of work in my to-do list for a single day, and never get over feeling behind. I’m working on it, but it’s honestly like a learning disability–very hard to overcome.

    • I have dyscalculia, and a lack of time management ability is very much a symptom of that. I have quite literally turned up for appointments (yes, plural) on the wrong day. If I’m running late it’s not because it doesn’t matter to me if I’m on time but because I have no idea that I’m running late.
      Dyscalculia also causes poor spacial awareness – so I can get lost in space AND time. If only I had a TARDIS.

  13. Thanks for this!!! I will definitely try a few of them out on my friend, but I also agree with the commenters on that it drives me bonkerz when people are late without reaching out.

    You had stated one friend being late due to strict timelines giving them stress, I’m the same except in reverse LOL. I need a timeline and to know what is happening otherwise my anxiety spikes uncontrollably, so I always do better with a shout out a quick “Hey be there ASAP, running late” would save me a world of stress… and yes even if it is a habitually late person, I still worry if it’s more than a few minutes.
    I also get that for some, it’s hard to stick to a schedule, and if I know in advance this person has chronic lateness issues, I generally tell them to let me know if/when they run late so I don’t stress, and make sure to bring a book. Also, the only thing that’s helped so far with me and my friend, is that I generally only plan something like a lunch or coffee date, if that is the ONLY thing on my plate that day. This way, when they are late it doesn’t bother me as much because I don’t have to cut our thing off early to go somewhere else, and don’t feel rushed while hanging out…. Also I don’t plan things that have strict timelines with her, for example if we want to see a movie in the theaters, I don’t buy tickets until we are both together and ready.. so we’ll plan for let’s say the 4PM show, but she shows up late, no harm since we haven’t gotten our tickets yet… We go for supper, maybe do a little shopping, then grab tickets for the 6PM show. As long as she’s with me, I know that we’ll both arrive at the same time LOL. This is also why I only plan a hang with her on a day when I have no other plans, so if/when things run later than my brain was expecting, I don’t tail spin into an anxiety attack.

  14. Agreed! Though as some of the other posters have pointed out, there’s a difference between someone being late to events like dinners, events, meeting somewhere for coffee, or people who are a little late getting to your house for a hangout. For me if you’re meeting someone out at a restaurant or coffee shop, being more than the 15 mins late without a reasonable excuse is very rude! However being late to go hangout at someone’s house, no major problems. I have some friends that are terribly chaotic and always late to everything, so I don’t plan things with them that leave me waiting in public awkwardly, I either go hangout at their house or invite them to mine. Trying to get some people to function in your world in the way you want, sometimes just doesn’t work. However everyone has a line, and you’re totally allowed to put your foot down and stop inviting them (some comments above talked about people being an hour late to a restaurant! In my books that is unacceptable!) I had a friend who chronically stayed WAY too late, and it gets to the point where you stop inviting them because they just weren’t getting it (when I start asking if I need to call you a cab, have cleaned up everything, and even brush my teeth and put pjs on, YOU SHOULD LEAVE!)

  15. I lie and tell them an earlier time. How late are they usually? Do they have kids? I will give them a buffer so that we are both happy. I have a friend that appreciates it alot because if she gets the correct time in her head she’s going to be late because she always thinks she has time but is bad at estimating how long something will take. She’s gotten alot better in her personal life doing this for herself. Any appointment she puts on her calendar early so she is really on time.

    I do find it is disrespectful to a relationship to be chronically late but I also understand that sometimes estimating how long it will take to get ready or drive to a location you can just be bad at it. I’m usually on with up to 10 minutes of being late especially if they keep you I the loop of their lateness.

  16. I saw an Oprah show that discussed lateness and they said it was due in part to perfectionism. Ironic, right? Because you’d think a perfectionist would want to be perfectly on time, but it has to do with being perfect before leaving the house or wherever, or whatever they’re doing. It helps me understand a bit more, but Please Try to be on time with people for whom it is stressful to wait, who leave their own live’s tasks and perhaps their loved ones to be there for YOU.

    I know this is also cultural. I have a friend from Argentina who was often very late, and this was just what it was like where she grew up. She has had to adjust and is a lot better now.

    Mainly, just stay in touch. Thank goddess for texting!

  17. This is something I have a really hard time with. I grew up with parents on opposite ends of the spectrum – my mom was late to absolutely everything, and my dad considered himself to be late if he wasn’t 15 minutes early. I have to believe that for my mom it wasn’t meant as any sort of intentional disrespect, time just wasn’t a priority for her so it didn’t occur to her that it was for others – but this absolutely didn’t make me feel any better when I was stuck hanging out on the front steps of my middle school for two hours after an event ended. My dad being so far in the opposite direction was frustrating sometimes too, but being an hour early for school or other activities was still less embarrassing than being hours late, so I ended up in the better-early camp.

    I’m now married to someone who struggles very hard with being on time and ends up being late more often than not. It is such a huge source of stress to me, but we’ve reached a bit of a compromise in that I try not to nag when we’re getting ready to go somewhere, and he puts up with maybe slightly-more-frequent-than-normal reminders about how much time we have left before we need to leave.

    I’ve read the Wait But Why article outlining the thought process of “CLIPs”, and I get that… I’ve also read all the explanations about how difficult/stressful following a schedule is for some people, just like math is hard for others, and I get that too… but I still just can’t understand how chronic lateness is still a problem. The plethora of technological options we have these days for setting reminders should cover any time perception mismatches – if I have an event outside of my routine, I set reminders for when to start getting ready, when to leave the house if I want to have time to stop for coffee, when I absolutely have to leave to be on time, etc. And yes, sometimes things are hard or stressful, but we still have to do them! Exercise is something that is very difficult for me, I hate it and I’ve always been bad at anything remotely athletic, but ignoring it causes bad health repercussions so I force myself. Paying bills stresses me out, but if I don’t pay them, my husband and I won’t have cell phones or internet or anything. I guess what I’m saying is that I can’t fathom chronic lateness ever being this nebulous thing completely outside of control, even in the best scenario you still are saying that your comfort/time/whatever is more important than everyone else’s.

    • I am mostly chronically early but very occasionally I’ll be late because something like what is described here: http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/07/why-im-always-late.html

      I have a lot is issues with maths and time keeping is very very hard for me so mostly I compensate with a lot of planning the route beforehand, setting reminders etc and adding extra time to my calculations because I know my perception of time is a bit odd and I because I deeply, deeply, value other people’s time.

      Therefore, most of the time I am early but every so often I fuck up and I’m late by about 10-15mins or so, very very rarely a bit more. When this happens it’s usually a journey/appointment combo that I’ve done so many times, so often that I think I know this one, I don’t need to second guess myself etc etc. Then at some point near the time to leave but not yet the time to leave I’ll get distracted and will miscalculate the time needed to finish what I’m doing etc. When I realise it’s gone wrong I’m in turmoil, I feel awful that I’ve fucked up and am about to let someone down, it takes a lot to keep calm and quickly get myself ready to leave. There was never a moment in which I chose between me or them, but there was a moment of distraction in which the constant vigiliance needed to keep me on time, slipped. I make a huge amount of effort to be on time and to take responsibility for my punctuality because I do care about other people setting aside time for me. I have never missed a flight because of it, manage to be on time for work and have never been later for a job interview so yeas I can be on time and mostly am, it’s just every so often I can find myself in the land of the insanely late.

      I get frustrated with this kind of behaviour in others especially when it is constant and feels like no effort is being made and I know I make a lot of effort in this area precisely because of my own shortcomings, so I really get that feeling when it seems like the other person just doesn’t care. But while I think that feeling that frustration is valid and pretty much unavoidable, the tricky part is not slipping into that old chestnut of “If I do X to show love and the other person doesn’t also do X, then they aren’t showing love or they are showing not-love/dis-respect”. It’s not easy though to keep that zen, but it helps if I feel the other person is genuinely remorseful (not that I think they should admit their sin and do penance or anything) and then when we are together I feel they genuinely value my company and I get something from theirs. For those people I am willing to adapt a little, only make flexible plans and try and manage my feelings about it. I think the tips above are great for that.

  18. In our modern world, it’s near impossible to predict the exact time you’ll get somewhere. It depends on traffic/public transport/etc.

    I have friends who I would call “chronically early”. They’re so terrified of being late that they’ll show up ~15 minutes early. Even at my house. (And there’s no way I’ll be ready to host you while I’m still trying to get ready myself.)

    This is why I believe that everyone should aim for the actual meeting time. And be graceful and flexible. Will that 10 minutes late really hurt your life? No. I’m from a culture where time is a lot more fluid. Stuff happens. Life happens. No one intends to be late or disrespect their friend.

  19. I think the thing people need to be aware of is the vast majority of chronically late friends don’t want to be late. They feel guilty and stressed and awkward, and they worry you’re going to either break of the friendship or start treating them like a child and lying about start times (which, dear god, don’t do this without talking to your friend first – it’s so patronising!). And once that guilt starts, it’s even harder to be on time, because instead of setting out to have a nice coffee with their friend, they’re setting out to a stressful meeting with an angry person. So they need to psych themself up a little more, which means finding a way to stop obsessing about being late, which means they need to stop thinking about the time, and then they’re even later, so they’re even more stressed, and it’s a vicious cycle. They don’t like missing out on good times and nice things either, but they start to feel they deserve it for being chronically late. Subconsciously they start self-sabotaging their attempts to be on time, because they don’t feel like they deserve the rewards being on time gets you – it’s a sort of imposter syndrome because when they turn up on time they feel like they’re hiding their chronic lateness.

    I say most, because I do know people who do it as a powerplay. but let’s be honest, when you meet some you like to manipulate you like that you’re not going to stay friends with them for long, compared with a well meaning but poorly organised person.

  20. I’m someone who is terrified of being late and is always on time, or more often than not, early. I’m the person showing up at your doorstep 10 minutes early apologizing…

    That said, I have a dear friend who has a huge problem with being late. But we all know it and more or less accommodate it. She is one of my oldest friends and one of the most genuine, caring and thoughtful people I know. Her plethora of amazing qualities as a friend outweigh this one bad one. Lateness is forgivable; being a crappy person is not. Her lateness is not something I wish to end such a good friendship over. For a someone not as close to me, I would, though!

  21. I’m seeing a lot of judgment here that the people who are late are somehow unorganized and careless of their friendships. However, in this fast paced, high pressure world, there are so many people who have very little if any control over their work flow. There are tons of jobs were people are on call or constantly in crisis management (first responders, management, law, medicine, social work, IT, plumbers, etc..)

    When an important client calls at 3 minutes before 5 with a crisis or a big project, you can’t say, “Oh, I’m sorry, if I talk to you now, I’ll be late for drinks with my friend” or even, “let me call my friend to make excuses and I’ll call you back in 5 minutes.” You take the call and when it is done, then you call to delay or cancel. There are also the passive/aggressive bosses who love to have spur of the moment meetings at 4:45 or dump a big project on you with a deadline of 8:30 the next morning. If you are in a meeting with the boss or client, you can’t make the call right then. Then there are the co-workers who get in early and track who is late but then are always the first one out the door at 5:00. They are never willing to stay late and help finish a project, but somehow, that never seems to hurt their career. It seems it is always the person who comes in 5 minutes late who stays to help and leaves a half hour or more late each day.

    Once, I was 10 minutes late for a meeting of volunteers due to a client crisis at work. One of the meeting leaders called me on it during the meeting, trying to shame me in front of the group and said exactly that I thought my time was more important than his. My response was that my time was not more valuable than his, but since my boss paid me for my work, her time was more valuable. I left and never went back. Many of my friends were in similar situations so we were flexible with each other. Those friends who could not be flexible were lost along the way.

    • Those are reasons that anyone can be late on occasion. The issue is where this is a chronic and habitual occurrence and not where there’s an external influence that could feasibly happen to anyone

      • The point I was trying to make is that this is a chronic situation with many types of work. Having to work late, once a week or more, without prior notice is a condition of employment in many jobs. Having a job like that doesn’t mean you don’t want a social life or that you don’t care about your friends. You need to have friends who are understanding and flexible.

        • I totally see and understand you, as someone who regularly can’t leave the office until 9pm. However I might be forced into lateness during the week but I’m on time when this doesn’t occur like at the weekend. I think the discussion here is about people who can’t/won’t be on time (within reason) regardless

  22. I have the same stress and problem with being on time that are described here for chronically late people, yet I somehow do make it on time most of the time. What’s not being mentioned much is how it is for people waiting for others. It is assumed that the only effect is annoyance and a little time loss. Yeah, that’s not how it it for everyone.
    Here, it’s culturally acceptable to be 10-15 minutes late with friends. That’s fine, it’s a reasonable public transit buffer. But after that, anxiety kicks in, and humiliation at being left hanging. Why am I not worth their making time for me? Why would they even hang out with me? Cue depressive spiral. So yeah, late people have problems, but we all have problems. Being considerate goes both ways, so I live with the stress of making it on time so I don’t make other people feel bad for my problems with being on time.
    Honestly, if people are more than 15 minutes late two times in a row, and they can’t be bothered to text/email/call me within that time frame, then I’m done. And that’s ok, not everyone is compatible with everyone. I just know that it’s something that will always make me miserable, and miserable is not something any relationship should make me.

  23. Chronically late is a topic I’ve struggled with in the past. A LOT. I am chronically early, my husband is chronically late, and that have been one of the biggest source of fights and issues between us in our early dating. It took me a long time to understand that it wasn’t against me, it wasn’t by lack of respect for me but rather a problem with time management and like other said before so well with the term time-deafness. But it was very hard sometimes not to take it personally, for example after waiting over 1 hour sipping on a now-cold-coffee by myself at a coffee shop, or waiting 45 min all dressed up and ready to go to a restaurant while he is “putting the last touches on his assignment, just need 5 more min”.
    I find some of the advices good, but I wouldn’t want to do others. Like lying on the time, I think that’s a lack of respect (my personal opinion there) although I have to confess I told him once the plan was 1h earlier than the actual time, and to be fair, we’d have missed that damn plan because he was late! Also, I don’t want to select which type of event to invite always-late-people because that they would be missing out on the fun or I would be missing out on it without them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t remove the frustration, and we spent a lot of terrible evenings, me being mad because I waited AGAIN for him, and him also mad because I jumped on him and yelled as soon as he showed up. No winner there.
    After 7 years, the advice I can give is to pick your battles. When is it a deal breaker for the relationship? I decided that for some occasions, I don’t mind if he’s late or if I’m late because of him, like when we meet with his friends or family. If we’re meeting each other at a bar, I order myself a beer and loose myself in a good book. At home I sit on the couch and knit away. We avoid situations where I might have to wait uncomfortably (he tells me to go home directly and not wait at the metro station for exemple). And for things when it would bother me to be late, I make it clear it’s important to be on time and why.
    One last note, it works probably because he is making efforts and wants to be on time, that would be a totally different thing if he didn’t care.

  24. I can sorta deal with my chronically late friend’s tardiness.
    What drives me crazy is her indecisiveness. She will not confirm if she will be present at X activity until the day of. Some things have to be reserved and other activities have a definite time frame. It is so much worse with kids too.

    Actually, most of this advice does not work if you have kids. After several missed opportunities or crying children because we arrived at an activity fifteen minutes before the end and they wanted more time to play, sadly I don’t wait for her anymore. When I promise my kids we will do something special, we do it. I inform her when and where and if she makes it good. If not, then it is her issue. As an adult, I can sorta deal with the frustration and disappointment of waiting around for someone who swore they would be there, missing out on experiences. Not as a five year old.

    • Totally agreed. We now have a toddler who hates going places that aren’t about her (fair enough really), and my chronically late friend who wouldn’t enjoy going to a play cafe or somewhere kid friendly. Since my little one is with me 95% of the time, I just ask my friend to meet me at my place. It’s extra driving for her, but it means I’m not stuck somewhere waiting for her with a toddler in tow. My husband does a lot of extra curricular activities which makes it hard when I plan to do something with this friend, so often these days are more like ‘wait and see what happens’, but usually he stays at home while I go out for dinner (or whatever) with her.

      I’d like to think I was a little more in tune with people with kids being late to things, or having pretty valid excuses about why they had to bring their three kids to run around somewhere they shouldn’t be… but I really didn’t get it until I had my own. Plenty of people who aren’t parents are really understanding, but it can be hard being the first friend to have children.

  25. ” and doesn’t conform to time schedules for her mental health.”

    You’re a more patient friend than me. I don’t think I could stay friends with someone who thought being considerate of my time & planning was “conforming” & a strain to their mental health 0_0

    • I know! We had been volunteering together for about a year when she explained this concept and I was bamboozled by the thought of it. In fairness, she is usually up to fifteen minutes late rather than upwards of 30 minutes, which isn’t so bad I guess.

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