The magic number of times to reschedule with flaky people before you can be ‘busy’ forever


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In an age where we protect, honor, and strategize our calendars as if they were our first-born child, there’s no bigger threat to best-laid plans than flaky chronic cancelers. Like I get it, JOMO beckons us all, and it’s easy to join the hermit revolution when we’re all wrapped up in our own busy lives and consumed by stressors. But when you actually have solid, agreed upon plans in place with someone who pulls that “Sorry, I’m the worst, but…” nonsense for the fourth time in a row an hour before you’re supposed to meet, nothing is more clear than the fact that to bail on someone, let alone repeatedly, is really effing rude.

So to ease your understandably high cortisol levels after learning your latest round of Scheduling Tetris was utterly needless, there’s some etiquette intel worth embracing about when you can opt out of the resulting rescheduling game. Because at a certain point, you and your daily itinerary have endured enough disrespect to have earned the right to say some version of “Nah, I’m good” at the prospect of rescheduling those coffee plans. Again. And better yet, it’s possible to go this route without coming across like a total ass.

“After the second reschedule, a third time is not the charm,” says national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. “Of course, we all understand emergencies do happen and that should be taken into consideration.”

“After the second reschedule, a third time is not the charm.” —Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert

Well, yes, of course; no one should be persecuted for catastrophic events like, say, needing to take a parent to the hospital or dealing with a literal house fire. But if someone just finds themselves “so swamped rn!” a million times in a row and can’t be bothered to tell you until an hour before you’re supposed to meet, that’s irresponsible and likely avoidable.

Because, honey, we’re all swamped! Right now you’re being disrespectful to me, my time, and my eyebrow appointment I had to move around for this. And while this late-breaking change of events is very frustrating for you to need to deal with, it should also absolve you of some guilt—because, really, why should you care? “When someone is a chronic rescheduler, the message becomes clear that the engagement is not very important to them,” says Gottsman.

After a couple rounds of plans-canceling, you’re likely sick of the perpetrator and in need of a break (despite never having seen them to start). To concisely end the cycle, just operate as if you’re doing them a favor.

“You can say, ‘Why don’t we put our plans on hold until your schedule settles down?'” Gottsman suggests. “It’s a nice way of letting them off the hook and freeing up your calendar and headspace.”

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether to keep chronic cancelers in your social rotation, but if you know a certain friend is going through some stuff that’s clogging up their life, try and be patient for the time being. Maybe they do deserve a pass—or four. But if you want that permission to not agree to a person’s third attempt at rescheduling with you, you wouldn’t be in the wrong set that calendar-invite reply to “Probably never.”

If you’re the one who’s known to bail on someone preemptively in favor of your partner, there’s a psychological reason to explain it (but it’s possible to break the cycle and be better).

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