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How To: Deal with flaky friends

Crash Course

Published: Thursday, October 25, 2007

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 09:01

You’re fed up, angry, and you just want to punch someone! It’s completely understandable when you’ve just been stood up for the third time in a week by someone you at least used to call a friend. Don’t get too bent out of shape, though, because that is what’s to be expected when you have a flaky friend.

First, let’s define what a flaky friend is. A flaky friend is “someone who is enjoyable at times, but when things get out of hand, they bail. Like a flake of bran stuck in your teeth during class, the whole situation is irritating and distracting,” says Tamara Canady.

Tiffany Watson defines flaky friends as “friends who are not there when you need them, [and they] only come around when they need or want something.”

Along the same lines, “friends that come around only when they need your adviceā€¦” is what Travis Broaddus considers flaky.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that this person is a bad person; they might be good, however unreliable people. They tend to forget that you made plans unless you call and remind them every hour. It might feel like nine out of ten times it’s you calling them, and whoever is physically closest to them takes precedence over any previous commitments. If you invite them to lunch, for example, they’re late no matter how much notice they have, and usually arrive with a whole bunch of people you’ve never seen before.

It would be easier if they did it on purpose or if they truly didn’t care about you, because then you could get mad and cut them out of your life with no regrets.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Often, these people don’t know that they’re flaky, and they are charismatic. You like them and you still want to be their friend.

You end up making excuses for them like, “They didn’t call because they were busy.” Or, “Well, she hasn’t seen her boyfriend in a while so that’s more important right now.” “He doesn’t want to use up all his cell phone minutes.” When you finally come to the realization that this is not a good friendship, what do you do?

Before you take any action, ask yourself this question: If you take their flakiness out of the picture, do you like the person they are? Keep your answer in mind when you decide what to do.

When it comes time to deal with your friend, you have three main options:

-Confront them about it. Is your friend capable of change? Tell them how you feel and explain what it is they’re doing that you don’t like. It is entirely possible that they don’t understand how flaky they’ve been lately. They may change, at least for a little while. However, don’t beat yourself senseless on an invisible wall by trying to change another person when they don’t want to change.

-Change your type of friendship. Stop trying to have an active friendship and turn it into a passive one. Only make plans with them to do something you were going to do anyway. For instance, invite them to have lunch with you-everyone has to eat. When you go to meet them bring a book, just in case they don’t show. Decide ahead of time how many minutes you’ll wait for them if they’re late, and don’t wait past that point. Chat and laugh with them if you meet on campus, but don’t make unshakable plans that would leave you hung out to dry if they bail at the last minute. This way you can continue to enjoy their company without the frustration and anger that comes with being stood up.

-If you feel like you’re going to snap if you’re friend flakes on you one more time, maybe you should cut them out of your life. Take their number out of your cell phone, block their e-mail address, and pretend you don’t see them when they walk by. This isn’t really a desirable option; by the time it gets to this point you probably have a lot invested in this friendship and you don’t want to see it end. Ending a friendship can also be painful if you’ve been close to this person for a long time. It may be best to use this as a last resort.

It’s hard to do this, especially if you don’t have many other friends to turn to. Regardless, do what is right for you and your friendship. If you try to be fair to yourself and your friend by choosing the option that is best for both of you, you will find that you enjoy spending time with your flaky friend and that it is possible to keep irritation to a minimum.

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