Tips for Dealing with a Flaky Friend

Young woman with cell phone and paperwork at breakfast
Mark John / Getty Images

Have you ever had a friend who is flakier than a melt-in-your-mouth piecrust? Or perhaps you are that person.

Whatever the case, flakiness isn’t something that should cause someone to disown a pal, but it can be very annoying. It shows a lack of respect for other people, something that can turn a friendship sour very quickly.

Cause of Flakiness

One of the things you may wonder is how someone can be so flaky to begin with. Is there something wrong with his or her brain? Or is there some other reason this person forgets plans and can’t be counted on?

Although there may be other causes, the main reason some people continue to be flaky is that they’re allowed to be. Their friends continue inviting them and including them in plans, even though they have a history of flaking out.

The flakiness comes in a variety of forms, depending on the person. Each type needs to be dealt with in a different manner. Here are some of the most common types of flaky friends:

  • 01 of 05

    Excuse Maker

    Portrait of confused young man
    Try to see through the excuses of a friend who is flaky. Jamie Grill / Getty Images

    You know the person. She agrees to meet everyone at the designated time and place, but at the last minute you get a text with an excuse about why she can’t be there. The first time this happens, you may accept it, but after several instances of this happening, you may start to wonder. 

    She might have even been involved in the initial planning, so everyone asks why on earth she would schedule something that might interfere with something else in her life.

    Her excuses run the gamut, from her clock not working to traffic being heavier than normal. Once or twice, you may understand and give her a little wiggle room, but she’s pushed you past your limit of empathy. Her habit of making excuses has created anxiety and frustration for you and others she's letting down.

    Here are some ways to deal with someone who always has an excuse for flaking out:

    • Pick her up from her place so she can’t use traffic as an excuse. Be cautious doing this if others are involved because you run the risk of her not being ready when you get there, causing both of you to be late.
    • Plan a regular get-together at the same time every week or month so she’ll have it on her schedule.
    • Plan something at or near a place where you know she’ll be. It can even be at her house or apartment.
    • Have a talk with her and let her know you don’t buy her excuses anymore. This is one solution that can cost you a friendship, but it’s already causing anguish for you and others in your group.
    • Offer to help her break her bad habit of always flaking out. You can brainstorm some methods.
    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05


    Woman writing on full calendar
    Some people overbook and never make it to appointments on time. Alan Shortall / Getty Images

    Sometimes there are too many things to do and not enough time to do all of them. Most people acknowledge and accept this fact and decline anything they know they can’t follow through with.

    However, there are some people who don’t have a grip on what they are or aren’t capable of doing in the same 24-hour period everyone has. In other words, they can’t say no.

    Here are some suggestions for handling a pal who is too busy all the time:

    • During the planning phase, ask if she already has other things scheduled for that day. Remind her that you’re counting on her to be there, if she agrees to join you. It’s okay to put her on the spot if she has a history of not following through.
    • Ask if there’s a time when she doesn’t have anything booked and schedule something for that time.
    • Tell her that you know how busy she is, and you won’t be upset if she declines the invitation.
    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Late Arriver

    Young woman telephoning with smartphone while checking time
    When people are chronically late, they keep everyone else waiting. Westend61 / Getty Images

    When a friend is always late, it throws everyone involved off in the schedule and can create some seriously hard feelings. Most people are late every once in a while, but there are some folks who can’t ever seem to be on time. Whether they start getting ready without allowing enough time or they don’t take the starting time seriously, it’s frustrating to have that one friend who keeps everyone waiting.

    What you can do with the chronically late friend:

    • Leave without her. Maybe she’ll get the message and start getting ready a little earlier next time.
    • Call an hour or so before you’re supposed to get together to remind her of the time. This may or may not work, but she’ll have no excuse for being late.
    • Have a talk with her about how she’s stealing time from you and your other friends. Those are minutes (or even hours) you’ll never be able to get back. This will probably cause her to be defensive, so be prepared for some pushback.
    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Wire Crosser

    Studio shot of young woman working in office covered with adhesive notes
    Help your flaky friend keep from getting her wires crossed. Jessica Peterson / Getty Images

    Some friends have the best intentions, but they can’t seem to keep their appointments straight. They might show up at the wrong place at the right time or vice versa. You may not understand how this keeps happening, but if you value the time you spend with this person, there are some things you can do to help her out.

    How to help someone who gets confused about commitments:

    • Send a text or email to confirm with all of the information, including the time and place of the get-together.
    • Ask her to repeat the plans so you know she understands.
    • Call to confirm the day before or the morning of the meeting.
    • Send her the exact address in a text message so she can pull it up on her smartphone.
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Have a Heart-to-Heart Conversation

    It's so good to see you again
    Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your friend. PeopleImages / Getty Images

    One of the things that a solid friendship should be able to handle is an open and honest discussion about ways the relationship can improve. If your friend’s flakiness bothers you enough for you to get annoyed, it’s something she needs to know.

    Don’t assume she knows how much of an inconvenience it is to you when she flakes out. Maybe she’s gotten away with it all her life because no one has told her. Here are some tips for what to say when having this conversation:

    • Keep a cool head and concentrate on addressing the topic without belittling her. Don't pull other issues into the conversation.
    • Avoid the urge to be sarcastic or to gang up on her with a group. This conversation is best held in private, between the two of you.
    • Start out by letting her know you value the relationship, but you can’t continue to put your life on hold while you wait for her.
    • Ask her if there’s anything you can do to help her become more reliable.
    • Let her know that you won’t continue to wait for her in the future.

    Having a flaky friend is frustrating but not hopeless. Be understanding but firm when addressing the issue and hope that she cares enough about the relationship to work on it.