Coping with the Societal Flakiness Epidemic

I’m 28, and most of my friends are in the 40-plus demographic. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I have some ideas. For one, they didn’t grow up with cell phones. This gives them an increased presence during face to face interactions. They have higher integrity- their words and actions are more closely aligned. The opportunity cost of interactions is higher for them — they’ve lived longer. They are closer to death and have less time to BS around.

If I have a rendezvous with someone 40+, I’m much less likely to follow up or worry about them flaking. As per those under, I think we are amid a Societal Flakiness Epidemic — where what people do and what they say are not aligned.

For those friends <40, here are some of the success strategies I use to prevent them from flaking or help them understand the importance I place on our interactions. After all, quality time is my top love language. Using a phrase like “I’m reserving my Friday night for you” helps reinforce the commitment. Try to paint a vivid image in their head of what is going to happen. Use the 5-Whys and H — who, what, where, when, why, and how. Put it in a calendar, and send it to them. I do this with social calls as well. It helps to reinforce the commitment. These are ways of practicing the system of “trust but verify.”

If you have proposed plans with someone and are waiting to hear back from them, and get invited to something with someone else, let the first person know. For example, saying, “I have other invites, but would like to prioritize with you, can you please confirm?” goes a long way. If they don’t confirm, you can go ahead and let them know that you have made other plans. This can help them understand the constraints on your time.

Loving someone doesn’t mean saying “yes” to whatever the other person wants. It’s important that loving another person doesn’t take priority over listening to yourself and knowing what you need.- Thich Nhat Hanh

Settling for a small upfront pain or discomfort is better than avoiding it and settling for big pain later. Saying no with words is better than saying a yes with words and a no with your actions. For example, declining an invite to an event is better than RSVPing “yes,” and then not showing up. If you’re the person making the initial no, notice if you’re coming up with excuses. It can be easy to decline an invite if another invite is scheduled concurrently. But, if your schedule is wide open and you don’t want to do something, no is ok! For example, let’s say that someone is stepping on my toe, and it is hurting me. It’s much better to announce the first or second time, “hey, you’re stepping on my toe, and it hurts, please stop,” rather than waiting till the 7th time and breaking your face a la Mike Tyson.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”― Maya Angelou

If you’re anything like me, I tend to get excited about events with people I care about. I can’t help it! This makes things a bit harder if they randomly don’t show up. If we stand for everything, do we stand for anything? Your no helps me value your yes. When your words and actions aren’t aligned, the value of your word dilutes due to the dissonance. Trust begins to dissipate.

Trust is comprised of 3 things — sincerity, competence, and track record. Without these things, trust is weak. Think of it as a confidence interval. With none of these things or only part of them, we have blind trust or visually impaired trust.

Another method of establishing trust is trusting via proxy. This is like leverage trust based on the judgment of others. Trust via proxy is only as strong as the trust of the person who is making the referral, at best.

How can we judge if something is worth a near term, no? What are the stakes? You can ask yourself, is this a hill that I’m willing to die on? Choose your battles. This phrase can be idiotic at times because it frames things as zero-sum. As a combat situation. Battles have winners and losers. In an argument, nobody wins. The loser is generally upset with the winner, and the relationship suffers. Find ways to share the truth tactfully. Then, everybody wins. It’s possible to state the truth and own your discomfort without being passive-aggressive.

Often we may stifle ourselves because we worry that something “isn’t worth bringing up.” These are precisely the things that we should bring up!!!

Tell the microscopic truth — when you speak your truth about your internal experience as you’re currently perceiving it. Pay particular attention to those issues that seem not worthy of being talked about. Telling the microscopic truth about something seemingly trivial liberates the energy to uncover what is really going on at a deeper level.- Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks

Comfort is the enemy of the lifelong learner. Life begins at the end of our comfort zone. If we are not comfortable sharing our truth and shrink and avoid telling it, we are depriving others of connecting with us. People are notoriously terrible at reading minds. People tend to reason about others’ mental states by starting with their own and only subsequently adjusting that egocentric default to accommodate differences between themselves and others. Such adjustments tend to be insufficient, rendering final estimates egocentrically biased. — Nicholas Epley

We must become accustomed to sharing our discomfort.

Avoid being “busy” and own your stuff. Saying you’re busy adds distance between yourself and the receiver. Are you uncomfortable sharing what you’re doing instead? Let’s say I invite a friend to hang out, but they are going to the gym instead. They could tell me that they are going to the gym. This allows me to understand them better and perhaps offer encouragement or support. When someone is “busy,” we have no idea what they are doing. If you’re trying to build closeness and rapport, share whatever is happening instead. If you feel uncomfortable sharing, that tells you about the nature of the relationship.

Commit to less. Add buffer time into your schedule to prevent overwhelm. If you find yourself oversleeping, or canceling on things at the last minute, or not attending frequently, note that. It means that you either don’t care as much about these events as you claim or that you need to prioritize taking care of yourself and aren’t running on a full tank.

2 responses to “Coping with the Societal Flakiness Epidemic”

  1. Great post, especially the note around different levels of patience (?) and presence, maybe based on generation. If I plan an event with someone and don’t talk for 2 weeks, I’m still assuming the event is on. It’s on my calendar; if it wasn’t on, I would’ve reached out at least a day ahead to reschedule. I find this consistent with older generations. With young whippersnappers, if we don’t speak in between setting the meeting and the meeting happening, they’ll assume it’s not happening and/or flake. I wonder if the easy access of the internet has inadvertently led to higher maintenance attitudes; people expect to be checked in with or have an event hyped up to feel ready to join. – rant over

    1. You’re the first to ever comment on my website, so big thank you 🙂 I’m giddy. Also, I think that’s a great point. I think there’s also death by choices as a result of the internet. I imagine the average Facebook user has plenty of daily event invites, something that just didn’t happen pre-internet.