You get to the theater at 8:00 pm on the dot, just like you and your friend planned—but he’s nowhere in sight. Then it’s 8:10 pm…then 8:20…and then finally you receive a text: Sorry, running late! (As if you didn’t know!) Since your friend has the tickets, you both end up missing the opening of the show—and even though he apologizes endlessly, you still feel ticked off a week later. Because after all, this isn’t the first time that he’s been tardy—not by a long shot.

Late people! If you have one in your life, you know that this selfish habit can drive you nuts. Unlike in high school or in the working world, there are no automatic penalties for being late to social gatherings. To get some good ideas about how to cope with this oh-so-annoying behavior, I called life coach and regular Daily Health News contributor Lauren Zander, who has advice on how to stay calm when it happens and to make your friend or loved one realize just how much his carelessness affects—and aggravates—you.


Chronic lateness doesn’t bother everyone, but it upsets some people a lot. Assuming that you are one of the latter, here are the steps to take…

Step 1. Explain to the friend who pushes that lateness button that this habit really bugs you. The truth is your friend actually might be oblivious to how his/her actions make other people feel. You might try saying to him, “I know you’re really busy, but it frustrates me when you’re late, because…” and then explain how your friend’s lateness has negatively impacted your life. This conversation might help solve the issue. If it doesn’t, it will definitely put this person on notice that chronic lateness really is an issue, and if it continues, you’ll have an easier time discussing possible next steps with your friend because you already laid the groundwork.

Step 2. The next time your friend is late (and he will be late again!), stay mum. But when it happens again after that, have another chat. Mention that he has been late twice since the two of you talked about it, and then start a discussion about ways to handle the problem that will reduce your stress and encourage promptness in him. This may involve a penalty of some kind. For instance, you might agree that the tardy person pays for the wine or dessert at dinner as a consequence of being late. Or you could make it clear that from now on, you are starting the activity on time with or without the late person. (And you should start handling your own tickets instead of relying on your friend!) Another effective option is to name an amount of time during which you will stay put at your meeting place—maybe about 20 minutes—before you simply leave. If you actually follow through on your agreement (and your friend realizes that if he doesn’t change his ways, he won’t see you anymore), then it’s likely that the lateness will stop.

Step 3. If you try one or more of the techniques above and the lateness still doesn’t end—and you still want to be friends with this person—your next move is to plan activities more selectively so his lateness is less likely to cause anxiety. In truth, this decision can be a little sad because it means that some activities that you have enjoyed together in the past, such as going to that show or having private time for coffee, will have to stop. Instead, you will do only things that are not time-sensitive or that involve more than just the two of you. These could include group dinners out…inviting three or four friends over to your place for drinks…or getting together with a group for a game of poker. That way, if your friend is late, you’ll be with other people and it won’t matter nearly as much. Maybe someday he’ll reform, but if he doesn’t, his lateness won’t cause all that stress that it used to—and that could be good for both of you.

Of course, if none of the above strategies work, consider gently encouraging your tardy friend to see a psychological counselor, who might be able to help him or her break the bad habit.

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