What is the best way to deal with disappointments from others? If someone is late about 70% of the time, and you expect them to be on time, that’s a rather foolish prediction, isn’t it? They may be on time, but they probably won’t be.
What many people will do is get angry with the friend who’s frequently late. Does this usually change that person’s behavior? Perhaps sometimes, but it usually has little or no effect. The person will most likely continue being late at roughly the same frequency.
Wanting a person to change doesn’t change their behavior. It’s more likely to cement the behavior in place since people tend to resist others’ demands of them.
Instead of resisting your predictions, a more sensible approach is to accept them. Accept that your friend will probably continue to be late most of the time.
Note that this doesn’t mean predicting that your friend will always be late, so you can be pleasantly surprised when they’re on time. That would be inaccurate as well. It means accepting that you don’t really know when they’ll show up and that most likely they’ll be later than they say they will. Predict based on reality, not on overly positive or negative expectations. In many cases your prediction will be a spectrum of possible outcomes with some being more probable than others.
Now your friend may change their behavior over time, but when such changes are going to occur, you’ll typically see advance evidence of them. Is your friend committed to becoming more punctual? If so, is there any physical evidence other than empty promises? For instance, when you visit your friend’s home, do you see books like How to Be Punctual lying around? Does your friend share details of their efforts to change? In other words, do you have some solid evidence that this habit will in fact be corrected?
Let me put this another way. If someone said they’d bet you $100 that your friend would be late most of the time for all get-togethers for the next six months, would you take that bet (meaning that you’re betting that your friend will usually be on time)? If you wouldn’t take the bet, it’s fair to say you expect the old behavior to continue.
If there’s no evidence of change, then your best prediction of future behavior is past behavior. In this case, the past does equal the future
If your current prediction is that the old behavior is likely to continue, then go ahead and project this expectation forward in time for at least a decade. In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, it’s reasonable to expect that this pattern will continue year after year for at least the next 10 years.
Now do your best to accept this prediction without resistance. Don’t try to alter it for emotional reasons.
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so if you’re clear about the past behavior, you can reasonably expect that it will continue as-is for the most part, absent any serious commitment to alter course. Change is always possible, but entertain the possibility that it may not happen.
Now with this newfound acceptance in mind, how does that affect your relationship with your friend? Does it mandate that you kick this person out of your life? Not necessarily. What it means is that you can now account for the likelihood that this person will be late most of the time. This means your decisions will be more intelligent since they’ll be based on more accurate predictions, not on false hopes.
If a non-punctual friend is a problem for you, you can always drop this person from your life. But you can also adapt flexibly to their expected lateness if you’d still like to maintain a relationship with them. Which approach you use depends on the nature of your relationship.
For instance, if this is a working relationship, and the other person’s lateness is costing you money or lost opportunities, you may find it best to drop them from your team and give more attention to people who are more punctual.
But if this is a casual relationship with someone you otherwise enjoy spending time with, you may not need to drop them. You can simply update your expectations accordingly. Don’t invite this friend to anything that requires their timely presence. Instead, invite them to hang out when you have a flexible schedule and when their lateness wouldn’t be a problem. You can arrive on time and bring something to occupy you if your friend shows up late. You could catch up on emails, organize your laptop hard drive, or enjoy some reading or audio listening.
Now suppose I meet a few times with someone, and I can see that they’re usually late. Am I going to invite them someplace where their late arrival would cause negative consequences? No. Would I hire them to work in a position where punctuality was important? Of course not. Could I still engage with them casually when their lack of punctuality wouldn’t cause any difficulties? Sure.
Our relationships will take a whole new level if we take this approach, accepting people for who they are is very important for a peaceful and harmonious relationship be it romantic, family or just friendship.