The Chronically Late Person You Know

“There are few habits as infuriating as someone making us wait. But, despite what may be running through your mind as you’re kept waiting again, it’s unlikely your friends and colleagues are just being selfish. A look into the psychology of lateness offers a glimpse into a mind that that may be malfunctioning. But there’s also more than one fix.” [from BBC Worklife]

Actually, being chronically late is the opposite of self-interest, if that’s what you mean by “selfish”. Most often, the person who’s chronically late is over-committed. Such people say “yes” to more commitments than they can possibly honor. They’re “yes” men and “yes” women. They feel they’re not supposed to disappoint anyone. They’d rather even LIE or let people down by being late than disappointing them by saying no in the first place. What a contradiction! This quality of compulsive people-pleasing doesn’t come from the presence of too MUCH self. It comes from the presence of too LITTLE regard for self — and for reality.

When the chronically late person is nice or brings otherwise good traits to the table, people won’t say anything. Actually, most people won’t say anything about the lateness. Nobody wants to hurt feelings, rock the boat, or offend. I have known people who are chronically late. If you take the road less traveled and speak to them privately, kindly yet candidly about it — in essence telling them, “It’s not OK, can you please stop being late” — it’s amazing to watch the chronically late person change it … for the person who asks for it! Not so much for everyone else.

Lesson: We are not responsible for the actions or failings of others. But we ARE responsible for the kind of climate we create in our lives. This includes what we choose to tolerate — or not tolerate.


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