On the flip side, criticizing them for their pattern will likely only put them on the defensive or make them feel ashamed—which could be part of the reason why they put off canceling plans in the first place.
Encourage them to be honest with you if they can’t–or don’t want to–show up.
After listening to their side of the story with curiosity and compassion, share yours, being careful to use “I statements” (“I feel disappointed when you don’t show” as opposed to “You clearly don’t care about ditching me”) so they don’t feel attacked. Then get to the point of the conversation: Figuring out how to move forward. Earnshaw suggests saying something like, “How can we make this work? Because I want to see you and I want to know that I can rely on you, but I also don’t want to put you in a position where you don’t feel comfortable.”
Let them know you understand that there are days when they might have to cancel because work kicked their ass, for example, and assure them they can be straight with you. Similarly, give them permission to say no in the first place. Just make sure you mean it: If you ask them if they want to go to dinner next week and they say they can’t afford it or they’re too busy, you should respond with something like, “Okay, that’s cool. I’ll miss you but I understand!” versus “Oh, well that really sucks. I never get to see you,” Earnshaw says.
Likewise, if your friend admits that they despise dancing but were afraid to tell you, ask them what they’d enjoy doing instead and welcome their honest answer. If they know you won’t be pissed or disappointed, they’ll be less likely to wait until the 11th hour to turn you down, Earnshaw says. “The goal is to encourage open communication,” she explains, which probably won’t happen if you punish them for telling the truth.
Consider, um, planning around their flakiness.
Based on their reaction to the conversation, you can decide how to navigate the relationship going forward. “If you have a friend who bails on plans all the time and you let them know how it impacts you and they just continue to flake, that might just be who they are,” says Earnshaw. “You have to decide, do I accept this quality that I don’t really like because I love them?”
If the answer is yes—you’re not ready to break up with this person over the issue—you may just need to plan differently with them. “If you know that they’re less likely to show up but you’re inviting them to important events and asking them to go to a wedding with you, for example, you’re not setting either of you up for success,” Earnshaw says.
Instead, it can be helpful to recognize their patterns and the types of events they’re most likely to cancel and plan around that. Maybe instead of scheduling something with them weeks in advance, they become a last-minute invite you aren’t counting on. Or if your bud tends to flake on uber-social events they have to dress up for, only hit them up for casual, one-on-one hangs. That way, you can meet them where they’re at—and increase the chances that they’ll meet you back.