Good Question: What should I say to a friend who is constantly flaking out?

Dear Alex,

I live by the idea that your word, your reputation and your personal integrity are not just ideals, but your currency in business, relationships and life. I can’t stomach flakiness.

That being said, I’m having an issue with one of my friends.

I feel she is flaking out in our relationship — not responding to texts or cancelling at the last moment, despite expressing that she wants to see me.

Any advice on how to broach this awkward topic?


Dear Stephanie,

Ten years ago, I was a miserably flaky person. My cell phone was my personal “eject” button.

If I felt tired, insecure, shy or just plain lazy, all I needed to do was fire off a quick text — “Sorry, can’t make it tonight!” — and I was off the hook.

Or so I thought.

One day, the persistent flakiness came to an end… because of a friend who cared about me. A friend who was sick and tired of my nonsense.

It was the usual dealio. She invited me to dinner at her place. I enthusiastically said “Yes!” An hour or two before dinner, I sent a pathetic text — “Soooo tired and there’s so much traffic. Can we reschedule?”

She was not having it.

She called me and said:

“I am very disappointed. I went to a special grocery store to buy a special Cornish Game Hen and I have been cooking all afternoon. I love when we spend time together, but you are constantly flaking out. Do you want a relationship with me, or not?”

Her tone was loving, but firm. I could hear the disappointment percolating through every word.

I felt sick to my stomach. Panicked, even. Because I knew she was right. I was behaving like a dolt.

It was the High Holy Truth Smack that I needed.

I apologized profusely, got in my car, and got my ass to dinner.

I made a solemn vow to myself, in that moment, to eradicate flaky behavior from my life. Because it’s gross. Because it’s disrespectful. And because — with a modicum of self-awareness and thoughtful planning — it is unnecessary.

You asked, Stephanie, how to “broach the topic” with your friend.

How do you broach it? You pick up the phone and just… broach it.

Tell your friend exactly how you feel.

Don’t scream, shout or be cruel. Try to remain civil and calm.

Just say the truth:

“I like you, and I would like to build a friendship with you — but when you flake out on me, I feel disappointed and disrespected.

I understand that we only have 24 hours in every day. If your life is currently too busy to include me in your circle of friends — or spend time together on a regular basis — that is OK.

But if that’s the case, please just tell me, ‘I can’t make it’ or ‘I can’t commit to that’ or ‘I think you’re great, but my life is too full right now.’

I don’t want to keep getting my hopes up and then feel let down. I would rather know the truth. Honesty from now on, OK? Deal?”

If you keep your tone level and calm, your friend will be less likely to go on the defensive, and more likely to hear & feel the true intention behind your words: Love.

Try that, Stephanie. Hopefully, you’ll get the result that you want.

Nobody is perfect, and everybody — myself included — is bound to miss the mark and let people down, occasionally.

But we can all make an effort to do better.

It’s not complicated.

It’s just a choice.

Make the right call — and invite the people you love to do the same.

No blame. No shame.

Only love.

Do you have certain friends or colleagues who are constantly letting you down? How do you handle this kind of situation?