How to Deal With Someone Who Is Always Late

Two Parts:Relaxing Your ExpectationsDealing with the Not-So-Punctual

Do you have a friend or family member that is always late? Do you ever find yourself wondering if it's they who need to change or you who needs to relax? In most cases, it's a combination of both. Tackle your own expectations first and then deal with Mr. or Ms. Slow Poke. With any luck, you'll be able to find a compromise which leaves both parties happy!

Part 1
Relaxing Your Expectations

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    Don't trust them to be on time. In other words, don't get your hopes up. Don't expect someone who is always late to suddenly be on time. If you have a friend or family member who has been running late for 27 years, chances are they aren't going to change. Even if they promise they will. Someone who is chronically late will probably be chronically late forever. Unless there is some seriously drastic intervention -- that they will also probably be late to!
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    Try to understand why they're chronically late. It's probably not because they're selfish or on a power trip. Odds are they're not good at foreseeing how long things will take, they have a chaotic life, or they're just naturally fickle. When you see the cause behind the symptom, it's easier to not get angry.
    • And consider their background. Certain cultures say 6 pm and they mean 6 pm. Others say 6 pm and really, they're saying, "Show up between 7 and 11 if you, you know, feel like it."
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    Determine if you could relax a little. Okay, so it really is their problem, but in what ways could you change? Maybe you could cut your friend some slack. Make a pact with yourself that you will only get angry if they are more than 20 minutes late. Anything less than that and they are off the hook. It sucks, but it save you mental anguish.
    • When you know they're going to be late, you sort of have to take some of the responsibility on yourself. Why get angry over a sure thing?
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    Adjust your expectations -- and your behavior. If you don't expect them to be on time, you won't be as disappointed when they aren't. And if you don't expect them to be on time, you can be late, too!
    • And if for some reason the universe stops and they're on time the one time you're late, tell 'em it's a taste of their own medicine. Do they like their time being wasted? Probably not.
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    Give them an earlier arrival time than everyone else. The party starts at 9:00 pm, but for the chronic latecomer, just say it starts at 8:30. Once again, you're probably doing them a favor. You're not the only one who's irritated!
    • This only works until they catch onto your game. When they do catch on, it may be time for a discussion!
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    Bring things to keep you occupied. You will be more angry with your friend when they arrive late if all you had to do was wait around for them. Bring a book or a pen and paper with you so you can stay busy. Time will fly by and you might not even notice they were late.
    • Think of this as a reward if at all possible. You get an extra fifteen minutes to finish that book you've been slacking on. Awesome! Some unaccounted for downtime!

Part 2
Dealing with the Not-So-Punctual

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    Determine if it's something personal. Is your friend only late when she's meeting up with you? Consider whether it's chronic lateness or rudeness directed specifically at you. Tailor your communication with them accordingly. It's probably less acceptable to yell at someone for being late to your birthday party if they were late to every birthday party they've ever been to.
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    Let them know your bottom line. There is nothing wrong with telling your friend nicely that if they aren't there by a certain time you are just going to go on without them. That's perfectly reasonable, mature and un-threatening. If your friend really wants to participate in the activity with you, he or she will be sure to make it on time.
    • In some cases, after 20 minutes you'll have to leave. It's gonna suck; it's gonna be a waste of your time, but hopefully the point will have been made. The next time they ask you to do something, tell them you're not going to get ready, go, wait, and just go home. Be firm but rational -- your time matters!
      • It's a great reason to get them to come to you. If you can stay comfortable, it's less of a big deal.
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    Get real. Your time is important. When your friend is late, it's a blatant indication of how they don't respect you. Tell them this! It cuts into your productivity, it's rude, and above all it's completely unnecessary. After the talk, straight up ask them if they are going to be late the next time you have plans. Have they heard you loud and clear?
    • There are ways to point out things that bother you about your friends without hurting them. Keep your tone level and your words neutral. Use "I" statements and smile.
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    Give them a chance to tell you something that bothers them about you. If you are upset about them being late all the time, chances are there is something that you do that bothers them just as much. Be fair and let them critique you too. That will even the playing field and help you deal.
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    Don't make them the responsible party member. Never let the late guy be responsible for transportation or carry the opera tickets. An already irritating situation can take a turn for the worst when the guy with the birthday cake is late and isn't answering his phone.
    • If they ask for responsibility, be honest! They need to get in gear if they want to be a part of the action.
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    Give them incentive. If you have a group of friends that hangs out all the time and cutting the one person out because they're always late isn't really an option, get crafty. Come up with something like, "Whoever is late has to pick up the check." If the entire group agrees on it, it could be incentive to change![1]


  • Use the opportunity to grow yourself. Maybe you've always been stressed out about being on time. Notice that it's probably not necessary. Being super late or super stressed are equally unpleasant.
  • Set a good example. Don't lecture your friend about how much you hate his lateness and then show up late the next time you guys go out for drinks. Instead, always be on time and gain their respect.
  • Be nice. People aren't usually late on purpose. Chances are they know they have a problem and know it annoys you.
  • See it as an opportunity to take your time. Isn't there something kind of nice about not having to rush out of the house to meet someone? Consider the advantages of having a friend who runs late-- you can be late too. Grab a coffee, catch up on the news, send those last minute emails or take a few moments to yourself.
  • Set their clocks to run fast. Alright, so this is a little sly. But if you're comfortable enough with the person you might try it. And hey, you're probably doing them a favor.

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Categories: Social Nuisances