A client of mine scheduled a coffee date for 3 p.m. on a recent Saturday with someone from Bumble. They arranged it through the dating app the night before around midnight, ending with, “I’ll see you then!” At 1 p.m. Saturday, the day of the date, when my client was at the gym and couldn’t reply, she got a, “Still on for 3?” text. Hadn’t they just confirmed 12 or so hours ago? Had she not replied at 2 p.m. saying that it did, in fact, still work, would he not have shown up? Do people really “forget” about their dates?
In another instance, I scheduled a date for a Thursday evening. We confirmed the date, including the time and location, on Monday evening. On Wednesday evening, I received a text asking, “Still interested in meeting tomorrow evening?” Didn’t we already go through this? Maybe it’s me, but I get tired of other people’s propensity to cancel or flake being projected onto future dates … in this case, me.
I give the advice to my clients to use the “confident confirmation” of “Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow” vs. the weak “Are we still on?” I know that many take this “weak” approach because they are afraid that if they say, “Looking forward to seeing you,” and don’t get a response, then their date will not show up. Let’s stop the madness!
I realize that I’m somehow now in the minority of people who do not cancel plans. I have a strong sense of obligation (guilt?), even if I don’t know the other person. I write my plans in stone (which perhaps leads to a heavy day planner!), so I have a hard time with the way plans are no longer set in stone for most people but more set in dry-erase marker. If something better (even if that’s Netflix and a bottle of wine) comes up, then the plans are erased. And you never have to see the other person’s face … or feelings.
Very sadly, we live in a world full of flakes. What’s at play here? Smartphones, for starters. You can cancel on someone without seeing his or her reaction. You don’t have to incur the ire of someone if you bail and then turn off your phone. But, remember that there is an actual person at the end of that phone. A person who has set aside some time in his or her life to meet you. A person who now has to find other plans or not have any plans. Sure, there are valid reasons to cancel — your child is sick, work put an unexpected deadline on you, your house burned down — but even if you have one of these valid reasons, remember that your time is no more valuable than someone else’s.
Here are some rules:
1. If you need to cancel the day of the date, call the person.
Yes, call. A client just told me that her date canceled on her 45 minutes before a date — via text — with nary an apology in sight. Have courtesy.
2. If you’re canceling and you still want to see the other person, then propose a new date at the time of the cancellation.
3. Add an “I’m sorry” into any cancellation.
I once received a cancellation three hours before a date saying, “I need to rain check for tonight. I’m dealing with a work situation.” That’s fine. It happens. But, I read this as “Me, me, me. I am important. My work is important. Your time isn’t as important.” Just apologize.
4. Don’t cancel!
Whether it’s canceling on someone at the last minute, which so many of my own dates and my clients’ dates have done, or ghosting (which most know is the deplorable act of “ending” a romantic relationship by simply no longer responding), remember that no matter what you call them, they are still bad — very bad — behaviors.
So, to all the dates out there who are thinking about flaking, either don’t (the optimal answer) or don’t schedule dates you don’t want to go on! And, if you do need to cancel, remember that there’s a person at the other end, with real feelings and real things to do besides wait around for you.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.