Is It Better to Be Hard to Pin Down or Hard to Rely On?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about plans. Specifically about making them and keeping them.

Since starting this quest last year, I’ve met a lot of potential BFFs. We meet at a party, or over email, or at improv class or book club or dance class, and eventually we make plans for brunch or dinner or a drink. And since I’ve really strengthened my meeting-new-people muscles, I am continually scheduling new girl-dates. I’m thrilled about this, because you never know who might end up being your Christina Yang, but it means that my calendar can get full. Sometimes I’ll try to make plans with someone and we won’t be able to find a day that works for both of us for at least two weeks. And I start to feel guilty, because I say I’m looking for a last-minute friend while I’m becoming someone who is not readily available at the last minute.

Last weekend I met a PBFF for drinks and at some point she said to me “You are the only person I know who is such a planner.” I got the impression this wasn’t a compliment. Apparently being someone who sticks to a schedule instead of going with the flow isn’t a great quality.

A few days later, this same friend totally bailed on an invite she had extended to Matt and me. One minute we were going to her house for a dinner party, the next minute that invite was off the table. Something came up. The dinner party was no more.

I discussed this with another friend over lunch the next day. “She told me I was a planner, and it definitely felt like an insult, or at least a back-handed compliment. But now I feel like the problem isn’t that I’m a planner, it’s that she’s a flake.”

As I look back at my calendar, I see that approximately 25 percent of the plans I make get cancelled. Never by me, and always because “a friend is in town at the last minute” or “work has been crazy and I’ve been getting home late” or “something came up.”

What I’ve come to realize is that it seems everyone is difficult to make plans with. Either you’re like me, occasionally hard to pin down but once you have a plan it’s a commitment you will honor, or you’re like so many women I’ve met, who act all breezy about scheduling (“I can do whenever!”) but then have no problem canceling if something better, be it a party or the couch, comes along.

I don’t know which is better. Well actually, I think my way is better, but perhaps we all think our approach is best. I’d rather be harder to schedule with but reliable. I want someone to know that if we make a plan, I intend to stick to it. To me that shows respect. But maybe others—maybe you!—think it’s more desirable to be the easygoing friend who can meet up whenever, and so they play that role even if it’s not always the truth. And if that means double-booking and figuring out what to cancel later, so be it.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Ever since I was told I was a planner as if it was a truly horrible trait, I can’t quite wrap my head around what the more attractive alternative to planning would be.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you make plans with no problem but bail if necessary? Or do you schedule every little thing, so that getting a date with you is like trying to get in to see the doctor? (I don’t think I’m that bad…) While clearly neither of these traits is particularly desirable—the true great friend is a mixture of both, she’s easygoing but never leaves you hanging—does one put you off more than the other? Please weigh in! I’m eager to hear what you guys think about this…


Filed under The Search

35 responses to “Is It Better to Be Hard to Pin Down or Hard to Rely On?

  1. L

    I’m with you… a planner. I think since I’m a planner, people who pull out last minute (for lame reasons) drive me nuts.. because then I’m left with nothing to do when I could have filled that time slot with other friends who would have actually kept our plans.
    Before you get too down on yourself, remember it’s possible that gal feels like planning is *her* weakness and was trying to tear you down a little to make herself feel justified in the way she does things.
    Happy BFFing!

  2. totally a planner. but not that organized. and completely over zealous. I plan too many things, over commit, double book and occasionally have to bail. and then feel horrible guilt about it.
    I do like a girl who honors her commitments (and 90% of the time I’m that girl). Even my maybes are closer to yeses.
    BUT i wish I was more like my friends who could say no or cancel when they are too frazzled or just need to spend a night at home. Of course, that is, as long as they aren’t canceling on me!

  3. Hey there planner. I don’t think you should take what that person said at all to heart.

    I, as you know, am a planner. I plan. That’s how I get to keep in touch with friends, see people, have a life, celebrate a birthday, etc.

    Some people are planners, others are not. I have one friend in particular who once said to me, in response to me inviting her to dinner… “you already know what you are doing this weekend?? (sound of distaste) it’s only tuesday. i just figure things out as i go.” which sounded and felt like a complete insult. But to be honest, it was a rude thing to say and what could have been more approriate is “i haven’t figured out my weekend plans yet, but will let you know.” Instead the little twang of “i’m soooo spontaneous and you are sooooo predictable” did hurt. But i realized, i’m happy having plans and I try not to take comments like that seriously. I haven’t changed the way I am, although I do not invite aforementioned friend as often as i would have had that comment (and others since) surfaced.

    So, all I am trying to say here is… it’s not better to be a planner or a slacker (haha jk) but in my eyes, planning’s the way to go.
    Plan away Rachel… plan away:)

  4. I’m a planner, too, though the caveat is that my work is unreliable and my daytime plans with friends, when made too far out, sometimes get moved because of professional commitments that I was not able to anticipate. So sometimes last minute works best for me because of that. But people who always bail really bug me, as do those who are consistently late.
    So, I think your approach is better!

  5. Suzannah

    I may be off base here but acting “breezy” about scheduling, meaning to give the impression of being so easy going or whatever is called ” putting on airs”…..fake, not being genuine…
    I know some people really are that way, but sometime it is fake……and that is a character trait I am very put off by….
    I like friends who put off the vibe ” I am ok, you are ok”…not ” I am so super cool that I don’t even need to plan, super cool fun things just happen in my life…and you are a total loser, trying too hard”

  6. Planner. Most of the reason I’m a planner is that I have kids. So, I can’t just meet for drinks or a dinner date unless I’m sure I have someone to watch the kiddos and that my husband doesn’t have plans also. Babysitters are expensive, so we try to avoid having to use them a lot. I super love the friends who just want to stop by and hang out and chat over wine at my kitchen table. Those are the best kind of sporadic friend dates to me.

    I’m also a planner because…I super like being home on my couch with my husband doing absolutely nothing. So, I tend not to do anything on Sundays. That’s our day to loaf and veg and hang out as a family.

    I am not a fly by the seats of my pants person. Granted, kids have totally made that nearly impossible, but even before that, I like to know in advance what my days and weekends are going to look like. If I’m too busy then I feel super anxious and will say no to some invites just to get in some quiet time in my own house.

  7. Suzannah

    I share Rachel’s posts while some ladies and I wait for yoga class to start…starts the best conversations.
    so Jessie’s comment:
    To quote the super cool Kid Rock-
    ” I show love to those who come real with it”

  8. I have to plan. If I don’t put something I desire to do in my schedule, it fills itself up quickly with things others believe I have to do. I enjoyed your blog, because your experience is my experience. I don’t get it. It feels disrespectful to me when someone simply does not show up or cancels an engagement at the last minute for what seems like frivolous reasons to me. But do you know what bothers me even more? What causes me to shake my head in disbelief is when people refuse to return my phone calls–even when the reason for my call to them is to follow up on something they asked me to do. Unbelievable.

  9. Callie

    You have talked a lot about how technology helps in friend making which I totally agree with. However, I think in some ways it contributes to the ease of canceling plans. If you had to actually call someone and tell them face to face (ok, voice to voice) that you were canceling, it would be a lot harder than sending an easy email or a text…I wonder if that contributes to some of the flakiness in plan making now a days.

    Personally I am a planner, but sometimes I long for a simpler time when plans weren’t always so necessary. After college when I went out more, I didn’t really need strict plans on a Saturday night. Maybe I had a vague plan to go to someone’s birthday and would decide to go with one other person, then I would talk to friends and invite them to come along and inevitably I had a fun night seeing lots of people without having made too much of a plan. Now I feel like I have to schedule out weeks in advance to see some of my best friends. I am as guilty of it as anyone, but sometimes I long for those breezy days where you just saw your friends all the time without having to make specific dinner plans!

  10. Me=total planner. But then I had kids, and it’s a lot harder to be a hard-core planner when kids so readily get sick and germy and awful. It’s been an adjustment, that’s for sure.

  11. I’m such a planner. I want to check calendars, and determine dates and get something all set up! I look at it this way: it gives me something to look forward to.

    And I’m not sure exactly how this happened, but two of my closest friends are girls who refuse to make any kind of commitment to any sort of plans.

    It’s all, “Let’s wait until the weekend to set things up” or (if I’m lucky) “Either Friday or Saturday will work” … but then, of course, I feel like I have to hound them — even as close to 12 hours before the date — to pin them down.

    I’ve tried to be more easy-going about it and remember that this is simply their personality, much the way that I’m anal-retentive about making plans.

    But, gosh darn it, it certainly feels like they don’t value my time when they give me these breezy “whenever” kind of answers. If you really want to see me, then why not make SURE that you’ll be able to see me? Because if I don’t make actual, real, date and time plans with you, then I’ll assume that I’m free to make plans with someone else.

    Except that I won’t because it’s YOU that I really want to see. And then when you bail and never come through with actual plans, I may passive-aggressively hate on you for awhile.

    But that’s okay.


    (really, this is probably one of the most prominent issues that I have with some of my friends…and I still don’t know exactly how to deal with it. Well, deal with it gracefully, that is)

    • TC

      Lauren…I’m just like you! I love setting something up to have it later to look forward to. A lot of my friends are the “let’s wait and see” types and I used to stress over our “dates” and hunt them down for a more definite answer the closer the time came around. However, I realized if they wanted to “wait and see,” then they will have to deal with it if I were no longer available. I mean…that’s what you get when you wait and see, right? If it’s a friend I haven’t seen for a while, then I’ll be more flexible and keep the two slots open. For instance, if I want to see a movie with a friend and she’s like Friday evening or Saturday afternoon will do. I will keep the time slots open for both days, but have a back up for both days of something I’ve been meaning to do on my own (i.e., browsinig through magazines while having dessert and tea at Barnes & Nobles Cafe).

      If the friend in question is pretty much flaky, I go by the Kid Rock quote stated above. Basically, I make time for those that make time for me. After all, everyone’s time is precious!

  12. Frith

    Out of curiosity, have you been noticing this with PBFFs your own age? I’ve been experiencing the same thing with my little sister and family friends in her cohort for years, and I’ve been assuming it’s a generational thing. My friends with husbands, kids, and jobs (and even my single friends who’ve seen this side of 30) seem to be on the exact same page as me, and we schedule each other in weeks in advance, and no one feels stupid, and we manage to keep up with one another. From those 10 years younger, however, I have definitely been on the receiving end of the suspicious “you’re so… organized” insult.

    • Well, the woman who cancelled on me is only one year younger. That said, in many ways we seem drastically different in age (her being the “younger” one). I do think that as we get older we get busier, and perhaps more responsible, so we pencil things in instead of just assuming that we can juggle a million dates at once….

  13. anonymous

    I’m with you on this one. The “whenever”/flaky schedulers are super annoying to me, and hard for me to be friends with. So, even if some people think “being a planner” is a bad quality, I really don’t think honoring your commitments (which does take planning) and making time for relationships is bad at all.

  14. katieleigh

    I am definitely a planner – both because it’s my nature, and because it’s my experience that lots of things just don’t get done/don’t happen if you don’t PLAN them.

    I had a friend in grad school who was forever bailing on me, and I have to say, it drove me nuts. Not just occasionally, but frequently. Eventually I gave up trying to make plans with her, because her constant canceling sent the message that she didn’t really care about our friendship.

    Take heart, Rachel! Planners unite!

  15. I think it’s definitely better to be hard to pin down, on occasion, but to be reliable. I can definitely relate to that. It is sometimes difficult for me to find a date I can commit to, but I do honor my commitment. In my experience people who won’t plan ahead are either waiting for something better to come along, or have other issues (e.g. one friend I said her husband liked to be spontaneous, therefore she would never make advance plans. It turned out he was abusing her and she had to wait and see what his mood was going to be on any given day). People who cancel or forget repeatedly are flakes. I don’t want any more flaky friends. One friend actually said to me (after breaking a promise to her grandmother), “as if my word is good for anything.” Enough said.

  16. LizC

    I’m a planner but I don’t have a lot of plans. If I make plans with someone I expect them to be kept and it drives me absolutely bonkers if that person cancels. I have one friend who is the worst about this. She’s absolutely an as you go person and sometimes that’s fine. If she calls me up and asks me to do something and I’m free I’ll go along. The problem arises when we make plans to do something and she bails. Or changes her mind. Or assumes they weren’t set in stone and I’ve finally learned that until the day arrives and we’re doing what we planned to do they are not set in stone for her. Ever. I finally confronted her about her flakiness and since then she’s been better about it but is still very last minute about some plans and I just have to accept that if we end up doing something together it’s often on her terms.

  17. JB

    I am a total planner. I think it’s pretty disrespectful for people to avoid making plans because they want to keep things “breezy.” What does that even mean?

    Last year, when I started graduate school, I had so many situations where people would flake out on me at the last minute. Like, I planned a couple of parties and I couldn’t get people to commit to them, so my husband and I would clean the house, make snacks, make a playist, etc. and then NO ONE would show up! It was ridiculous and pretty hurtful. After that happened a couple of times, we decided to stop trying to make plans with my grad school friends. If someone else planned something, we would go to it. But it wasn’t worth the wasted time and the hurt feelings! I think some of it is a generational/life stage thing. We’re 30 and have been married awhile and enjoy having dinner or cocktail parties, whereas a lot of my grad school friends are in their 20s (and even the ones a little older still live a more “partying” lifestyle than we do), so they want to leave room in their schedule to go bar-hopping/meeting people/perhaps partaking of substances I want to avoid, etc. So maybe it’s a question of priorities for some people…

  18. I’m in the planner camp, too. So obviously I think that’s better. But let me throw this out for you to consider: Is there a time when friendships are very new that it’s better to be “breezy” about plans? If you are hard to pin down, might a new PBFF think, “I like her, but it’s not worth all the effort”? Do you seem more accessible and is the premise of a new friendship less intimidating if it doesn’t feel to the other person like it requires an act of congress (an overstatement, but you get my point) to make plans with you?

    I’m still in the planner camp. But since you’re dabbling in so many new friendships I though this might be worth considering.

    PS – Since I know you’re a Friends fan, I will tell you that your post reminded me of the scene when Monica and Richard are on the rocks and she calls to leave him a message and proclaims, “I’m breezy!”

  19. Count me in for planner.

    But what you described about your dinner party isn’t “I’m not a planner” in my opinion — it’s “I have no regard for others’ time.”

    A friend of mine in grad school was impossible to pin down — she just didn’t commit to things often. That’s more along the lines of “not a planner” to me.

    So I make plans and most of the time, I stick with them. I’ll cancel plans if I’m sick or if an emergency comes up — not often. There’s another piece, though — emergencies involve emergency rooms, broken pipes, or something of the sort.

  20. I’m a planner and make no apologies for it. I like committing to events and people. Leaving it up in the air, well it seems like then the person may not really want to pursue the friendship. I’ve found that people make time for the things that are important to them.

  21. Leanne

    I think I manage to be a little of both types, but it ain’t easy.
    I end up flaked on a decent amount and I am the flaker like one out of every five plans I make. Because of my experience being both I am pretty forgiving of flakes for the most part and I get horribly guilty feelings when I have to flake. Good times.

    I think cell phones have definitely made people more breezy about plans, and really, breezy about everything. (Ever walk out the door with no idea what address you are headed to, but get on the bus and figure it out en route? I do this daily.) I don’t think it’s an excuse for bailing on actual plans though. All our devices help us stay organized, after all, so planning has reached a new level!

    Let’s here it for a healthy dose of both planner-ism and spontaneity for everyone! I think that is a win-win!

  22. I have to say I’m not a planner – but if I make a plan, I definitely try to stick with it. I’m the girl who typically doesn’t have plans for the weekend, and I love the friends who would call me up or text me at the last minute and ask to hang out, do something, etc. I would love more friends who would be up for last-minute plans, rather than planning, but that doesn’t mean I think any less of the folks who do plan!

  23. Pingback: BFF Searching: Phase Two | MWF Seeking BFF

  24. Julia

    I’m totally a scheduler. But I do get the feeling from a lot of people I meet who are my age (20-somethings) that unless it’s for work or school, they’re not schedulers. Which makes me wonder how they have friends or get things done. Do they expect to just “run into” their friends when they’re out and about? Do they tweet people 20 minutes prior and say, “Hey, let’s go catch a movie and grab drinks”?

    Someone told me once, “If you have a plan, and you work your plan, your plan will work.” And I love that quote.

    So, er, listen up rest-of-the-world. This “whatever, whenever” attitude is failing. Let’s give it up and at the very least make schedules with our smart phones.

    • LizC

      Oh my lord I just have to say I have a friend with not one, but two, smart phones because she has one for personal use and one for work and I have never met someone who is so forgetful of appointments in my life. It drives me bonkers! She has two handy devices practically designed to keep your life organized and to keep you on time and ready for appointments and she does. not. use them! I don’t even have a smart phone and I still manage to put important appointments in my phone so that it reminds me about them.

  25. Alison

    I am also a planner and get a lot of happiness seeing all the little slots on my calendar fill up. But I do confess to flaking occasionally when it comes to chronic flakes. Once I’ve been flaked on by someone more 3+ times, I have few qualms when it comes to flaking on her. Perhaps not the most mature outlook but seems to work as a policy.

    • Yes! I allow myself this same rule. Most of the time I just assume the chronic flake will flake on me anyway, so if she miraculously doesn’t but something comes up on my en… yeah, I don’t beat myself up about it.

  26. I’m a planner myself, and I come from a family of planners, and I find non-planners maddening. The trick is to find out people’s Myers-Briggs personality types. If they are a J (rather than a P), they’re more likely to be planners. True story.

  27. Christina

    Do we have a clear definition here of what a planner really is?

    I guess I am asking, because I don’t plan my social gatherings weeks and months in advance.

    If someone calls me on Monday about getting together on Friday or whatever, I can usually fit them in… on the other hand, if they call me on Saturday and want to do something on Sunday, probably not.

    So am I a planner or not a planner?

    Hell, I don’t know.

    • Edie

      I think a planner is someone who commits to an event, and honors that commitment. In this case, you’d be a planner. I’m this kind of planner myself. I try not to overcommit, but if I say I’ll be there, I will. Of course, I’m a little older than many of the posters here appear to be, so it seems I may also be more likely to “just say no” when I need down time.

  28. Ivana

    I think the majority of us are planners. Even the so called easy going or last minute friends do plan, because if you don’t plan there’s no way you can keep up with all the activities in your life. I for one would prefer to know a couple of days in advance when I have to meet up with a friend for coffee, lunch etc.
    Being a planner isn’t such a bad thing.

  29. Katherine

    Planny McPlannypants here. But as others mentioned I think this is a stage of life thing for me (married with child)

    One thing about planners – particularly planners who are double bookers – is the danger of coming off as too clockwork. One of my dearest friends lives and dies by her calendar, often booking several things in an evening. She is definitely not a flake but our hangouts started to feel like there was a clock running in the background. It really prevented me from bringing up conversation topics because I felt like she would announce “TIME’S UP” at any minute.

  30. Ricky

    I don’t see myself as planner, but I like to stick to the schedulle if I made meeting on certain date/time, and it pisses me off when people (looks like) a eager to meet you and like you, but for real they’re just canceling all the time. Damn, I am pisssed of.

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