The 6 Stages of Cancelling Plans

I’m betting that anyone reading this right now has either canceled plans in the last week, or been cancelled on. And for this story, cancelling actually means “rescheduling” which usually involves weeks (if not months) of texting back and forth with ideas and excuses. Most of the time these plans are for coffee or cocktails with an acquaintance of some sort—someone with whom you have great intentions of connecting or catching up with… if only you could find a time when you both didn’t feel like blowing it off.

The New Yorker even featured a piece last year called “Let’s Get Drinks” that hilariously illustrates what this interaction looks like. It’s a cultural (or generational?) phenomenon that probably has something sad to say about Millennials’ idea of commitment or integrity or personal responsibility. But before we all start feeling like monsters, I thought I’d lay out some thoughts we’ve all had when cancelling plans. Because at least if we all do it, it can’t be that bad, right? (Don’t answer that.)

4:30pm (while skimming Facebook at your desk) “Oh NO! I told [insert name] that I would get drinks after work today and after that hell-of-a-day all I want to do is go home and watch The Mindy Project.”

This is your brain on regret. You either looked at your calendar or got a reminder text about your evening’s “commitment” and you’re starting to feel the dread seep in. At this stage of cancelling plans, even the least melodramatic person will begin to believe that following through with this plan will be pure torture.

4:45pm (discretely packing up your things and changing into your commute shoes) “Ok I have to get out of it. What’s a believable excuse?”

At this point you are gripping your phone and staring at the keys—just willing Siri to draft some compelling excuse to get you out of the meet-up with the relationship in tact. You don’t want to lie…but you definitely don’t want to seem like a flake (even though, technically…).

5:30pm (on the commute home) “I’m just gonna say I had a rough day at work. Everyone relates to that, right? Right. She’ll understand. I mean two weeks ago she rescheduled because she ‘forgot’ she had signed up for a barre class.”

You’ve officially crossed over to the dark side. Fueling your decision is the memory of being cancelled on and how, actually, you were also relieved.  So now you officially feel justified to play the game back.

6:05pm (in your bedroom changing into ‘yoga’ pants) “I’m FREEEEEE!!!”

The text has been sent. She has replied, “No problem, I totally get it. Let’s try for Saturday!” and you’ve likely barely even read it. You are busy thinking about what you’re going to order in for dinner and how soft your lounge-pants are and how happy you are that you won’t have to exercise your small-talk-muscle tonight.

6:20pm (waiting for pizza to arrive) “Wait am I a bad person? Why don’t I say no more in the first place so I don’t have to blow people off? What if we spend all of 2016 trying to get together and never actually do it?”

You will likely have some pangs of guilty for giving someone the brush off. After all, you did make these plans once upon a time with full intention of following through (right?). And now here you are, choosing your own comfort over following through. This is actually a pretty decent thing to ponder.

6:30pm (upon hearing a knock at the door) “Nevermind MY FOOD IS HERE!!”


Don’t worry you’ll (maybe) do better next week.

On a serious note: This is honestly a behavior I’m trying to shake. As an “outgoing introvert” I tend to be big on promise and less big on follow through. Which I really hate about myself. I’m not positive what the cure is for everyone here (besides bucking up and remembering that life is full of things we don’t always want to do) but for me, I try to not only be more careful with my words when I’m excitedly about to make grand plans with someone but I also try and check in with myself to see if I really need to get out of a plan or if I just want to.

What’s a way you combat this?

  • Annie

    Love this article. I feel like this is me to a T, and it’s something I’m working on too! I always have fun going once I actually do, I just have to talk myself into it sometimes. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one!

  • Ellie

    I love that you describe yourself as an outgoing introvert! I totally relate. Everyone always describes me as extroverted when truthfully just because I can talk to a group of strangers with ease doesn’t mean I’m not dreaming of being alone with a bottle of wine instead.

  • My plan cancelling has gotten so bad that people don’t even expect me to follow through anymore. I made it a goal to hang out at least once a month, and it’s funny because once you actually decide to hang out, it’s ends up being a lot more fun than you thought it would be!

  • This is so me… but I’m trying REALLY hard this year to stop doing this.

  • Dee

    So yes, we all do it and it’s been done to us. Yet, being on the receiving end of the cancelling….sucks. Everyone is busy and you actually set time aside to be with your friend. You’ve actually turned down other plans so that you can commit to your friend. And then she cancels on you…again. It’s especially terrible for Thursday/Friday/Saturday evenings when it’s prime going-out nights, and now you’re left in a lurch at the last minute without any plans. 🙁 To those who habitually cancel on friends, it can also show that you’re not respecting your friends’ time (notwithstanding those true sick or emergency cancelations). Friends of ours who do this often stop being scheduled in for prime going-out nights (at least for one-on-one plans), or we have other friends along so to still ensure that plans go through. And having a reputation of no-follow-through is not a good thing. You are letting friends down. And yeah, don’t think it goes unnoticed that you’re being time-inconsiderate. Try a little harder, friend!

    • I agree with this 100%. Getting canceled on for real reasons is more than alright, just because you want to sit at home? The only way that would be okay is far in advance. You could do what I do and invite them over for a movie or for wine at your house instead of going out, that way you get both- that’s more understandable to me.

  • I can completely relate to this. Working on coming up with strategies to keep my plans with friends…even though most days I just want to go home and knit. Ha!

  • Laura

    I’m pretty introverted and I totally get the line “in terms of instant relief, cancelling plans is like heroin.” !!!! But actually, I do like hanging out with my friends and I want to have good friendships with them, and that means sticking to my plans. The key word for me is “plans.” I do NOT like last minute ideas to get drinks after work when I’d been dreaming all day of Netflix, pizza and pyjamas. I would feel the same way if I forgot about pre-existing plans and only just remembered a couple hours before the plans were supposed to start.
    So… keeping really good track of my calendar, to-do’s and upcoming events is really key in order for me to look forward to plans with friends. If I have time to psych myself up for social time and get into the right headspace for it, then I really enjoy myself usually.

  • Suzanne

    I also loved that you described yourself as an “outgoing introvert”. I feel like this too. I loved this article and could relate to each stage of cancelling plans. I have been forcing myself to take more time to commit to plans. And then if I say yes I have to keep them. It’s tough when comfy pants and Netflix are calling.

  • Shannon

    This is a bad habit my best friend and I both had. This year, our resolution is to have a standing date night every week. Only death was deemed a good excuse for cancelling. Even on days where I regret it – it ends up being totally worth it in the end! Then we rejoice together when our BBQ chicken pizza arrives after a long day!! It definitely goes a long way to breaking the habit – and I get much more time with my BFF.