How to deal with friends who are habitually late?

We have all of them in our lives. They live among us just to try our patience. Ms. Late and Mr. Early. Loved ones who can’t seem to get out of their own way and arrive anywhere on time. It’s a chronic problem, and they know it, but that’s how they roll.

“I’ll be there by 6:30!” Eight it is.

I’ve had conversations on the phone: “Supper will be ready by four o’clock. See you then.”

My other friends will give me a look. “Supper is at four?”

“No. It’s at six, but I’ve invited Mr Tinkerbell.”

They nod knowingly.

I’ve even been in the room with Mr Tinkerbell and said, “We’d better go,” and he agrees, “Righto!”

Then he turns around and orders some groceries, looks up a quote, checks his email, searches for his battery charger, looks at the football scores and finishes up the game he’s playing on his phone while I wait. Ok, I exaggerate but at least two-three of those things and I guess there is always a handphone break during any outing.

But as exasperating as it is to have someone in your life who’s always late, it’s excruciating to have someone who is perpetually early. To be even two minutes late is not an option for these people.

One of my friends is in this category. He times things to the minute.

“The movie is at four. We have to meet up for a cup of coffee first, so estimating one hour for that as well as time to dress up, prepare not counting unforeseen circumstances like a flat tire or bad traffic, we should leave after breakfast.”

“You are completely insane!” almost came out of my mouth!

Being too early or too late is an affliction, but it never seems to bother the person who’s actually afflicted. It only affects the poor fellas in their company, who just do their best to show up when they’re supposed to.

I’d just like to know how early in life this behaviour manifests. What is it about our internal clocks that leaves one person unconcerned about time passing, and the other constantly aware of it? 

Some advice you’ll often hear from those also dealing with the chronically late, is to tell your friend the wrong time. If you’re supposed to meet for coffee at 2:30, tell her to meet you at 2 instead. This doesn’t work. Trust me after doing the same to Mr Tinklebell. 

Other people would say that “a good friend would make more of an effort.” I don’t agree. Although people who are often late can be on time for things they need to be there for, I find that it is the less structured times of social hang outs and cinema trips that can cause headaches. Another friend of mine finds being on time to everything an undue stress, and doesn’t conform to time schedules for her mental health.

After asking my more learned punctual friends, here are some tips to try. 

1. Meet somewhere you don’t mind waiting
For me, usually it is my house, or somewhere I will keep busy, like a mall where a little widow browsing keeps the mind occupied. 

2. Decide not to watch the clock
Do something to take your mind off waiting. Read a book, do something creative or call a friend. Soon you won’t be waiting for someone, you’ll simply be being expecting them. For me, I love taking that “extra time” to catch up on news or emails. 

3. Confirm your get together the day before
Chances are that your friend totally remembers, but while you’re counting down the minutes the next day, you might find yourself panicking and wondering if your friend forgot.

4. Call once you start feeling a little tired, or frustrated
If you give a grace allowance of about 15 minutes, then phone, they have a much more accurate time of arrival, as opposed to calling right on your meet up time.

5. When they arrive, just be nice
Some people will tell you why they were late, others won’t worry about the excuses. You’re there to see your friend, not to be their time keeper.

Over time, the people around me have came to know lateness as a trait, rather than a defect. They have stopped nagging about where my best friend could be, and have started asking if we should save some dinner for them. The acceptance of the crowd certainly helps.

I generally gauge how long something will take and forget about it, the same way I hang pictures without a measuring tape and throw spices in a stew. It’s called the “Who cares?” method.

The one thing that does happen is that this behaviour becomes part of the charm of the person you love. You can’t imagine Mr. Early ever being late, or Ms. Late ever showing up early.

As long as they show up. It all can be frustrating, I know, but a truly good friend is worth waiting around for. Period.

Check out my related post: Do you have low self esteem?

Interesting reads:



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  2. Oh I feel your pain, but we’re one of those people 😉 We’ve had a friend who wanted to cancel our friendship because we showed up 5 minutes late. (Why do you show up 30 minutes early?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha! I guess it is a matter of perspective! Whether it’s 5 min late for someone or someone else is 5 min early! Well, the important thing I’ve learnt is that true friends are the ones that love you for what you are whether you are late or early. So I’m happy to have some of those friends with me.

      Liked by 1 person

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