Flaking, or bailing out of commitments at the last minute, is common. We can learn a few important lessons from this behavior.
Five years ago when I wrote the first version of this blog post, “flaking” was trending. Whether it was a service provider, networking acquaintance, or friend, more people seemed to be dropping out of commitments, often at the very last minute.
As I revisit this topic, I still have at least a half (and often a whole) day’s worth of appointments disappear from my calendar. So what’s this all about? And more importantly, what lessons does “flaking” hold for all of us?
Flaking Helps Us Learn About Our Core Values, Needs, & Feelings
At first, the flaking behavior of others agitated me. I value dependability, so when I commit to doing something, I do it. If I’m honest, flaking angered me because that meant a person prioritized something else over our interaction. What I was really feeling was disappointment and/or hurt.
However, I have been on the other side of the flaking fence. As someone who manages a chronic illness, there are times when I’m truly not well. What I committed to one day may no longer possible the next. These days it’s rare, but not impossible for bad stretches to happen. When they do, I certainly make choices to prioritize my health & well-being over all else. And, I hope others will be compassionate and understanding about that.
- What do you need in your personal and professional relationships?
- What core values do you bring into your interactions with others?
- How do you feel when someone flakes?
Flaking Helps Us Learn the Lesson of Expectations & Self-Worth
Another lesson we can learn from flaking is that it highlights our expectations (of others, and/or of ourselves). When people don’t behave the way we want them to or think they should, it can lead to our own suffering.
While it is normal to feel hurt and/or disappointed when plans go sideways, it is not possible for anyone to make you feel that you’re not valued, despite what they do (or don’t do)! If someone flaking on their commitments has this power over you, it may point to a lack in your own sense of value and self-worth.
- How do you expect others to behave in a relationship with you?
- How do you expect to behave in a relationship with others?
- How is your self-worth impacted (or not) by people flaking?
The way you think, how you react, and what you do as a result of flaking is consciously or unconsciously tied to all of these questions.
Flaking Helps Us Learn the Lesson of Healthy Boundaries
Lastly, flaking teaches us to establish, communicate, and honor healthy boundaries.
When I look upon people (who frequently flake) with compassion, what I realize is that they are doing the best they can. So many people are over-scheduled, scrambling, just trying to fit everything in. They are not full of malice or bad intentions, nor are trying to be hurtful.
What we all suffer from these days is an inability to set good boundaries for ourselves, and to help others understand and respect them.
This isn’t just about scheduling.
It’s about learning to listen to that body-level, gut-reaction that wants to say “no” to something, rather than trying to squeeze it in. It’s about considering what it is we really value–and prioritizing it from the start whenever possible.
Here are two examples of boundaries I have: one personal and one professional:
Saturdays are for spending time with my boyfriend. I don’t allow clients to book appointments, and I don’t each yoga classes. If a friend wants to get together, we discuss it and both get together with them, or I meet with them another day.
I wait no more than 15 minutes for a client. This leaves time for traffic, running late in general, etc. If a client calls or texts letting me know, I usually allow even more time. This is something I clearly state up front, because I value my time.
You do not need to feel guilty or worry what others think of you for doing these things.
Why? Because you’re modeling healthy boundaries for others in your life.
You are able to show up relaxed, alert, and 100% present because you want to be there above all else.
So What’s To Be Done About Flaking?
Here are a few ideas:
- The next time someone you know flakes, send them some loving-kindness. Recognize that perhaps they are having trouble setting boundaries.
- Set, communicate and honor your own boundaries. Because doing so requires courage to “go against the grain” of our manic culture, you may want to connect with some healthy role models yourself.
- Explore how often you say “yes” when you really want to say “no”. Then explore how do you feel while participating in these commitments when the time comes.
- Notice how often you flake on commitments to yourself (e.g. getting some exercise, eating better)? How does this compare to commitments you make to others and what does it say to you?
- Check out this funny video about flaking. (I like it because it mentions “busy people” vs. flaking AND sleeping. 😉
This is just the tip of what could be said about the modern behavior of flaking. There’s so much growth for us here! What’s your take?
As always Guru you bring exactly what I am working with and we seem to come together in a perfect unity of your words.
I too often have been flake, but mine is due to high anxiety about the situation, sometimes high-anxiety leaving out of the house. Might sound like self-sabotage, and it may, sometimes I have valid reasons like (embarrassing) gut/brain chronic issues. And sometimes that sabotages…Me.
You are right. And in that anger we release upon our ego/expectations aching, we can remind our-self “What is in this lesson?” “What am I supposed to learn from this?”. These two mantras are new for me.
I am finding that the simple curiosity of feeling tremendously is a) a blessing and b) can be a strength. Also as you said, finding compassion to re-frame the other individual’s output (whether they flaked, or reacted harshly* or other scenarios) we can find a solace where we remember “it’s not about us”. Yet another lesson on my journey personally.
I hoped to see you in Austin past October but recognized you may have been super-duper booked. I am glad we get to connect via these mediums. Thank you for your kindness, your words and your inspiration Kali.
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