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10 of Hannah Sternberg's Greatest Hits

6. May 15, 2013: Stop Expecting Your Friends to Show Common Decency

Flaky friends. No, they're not great.

Mindy feels you.

Hello Bad Advice readers! This week I got a question that I've heard many times from friends, mostly millennials, who get the classic "I'm not really standing you up because I texted you five minutes ahead of time" line from their friends. As we emerge from social hibernation this spring, take heed: all your friends are jerks. Get used to it.

Dear Bad Advice,

Have you ever had a friend that seems to always bail on plans? Not only do they bail, but do they wait to the very last possible minute to not-so-gracefully bow out?

A close friend of mine is almost ALWAYS doing this to me and it absolutely drives me nuts!  Now, I hate double-standards, but are they necessary when it comes to teaching people a lesson?

Is it wrong for me to give her a taste of her own medicine a few times by doing the same exact thing she repeatedly does to me? Or, is this too childish?

I should note that I hate confrontation and yes, I admit to being a bit passive aggressive sometimes to avoid it.

- Fed Up with Being Stood Up

This is going to sound like bad advice, but stop expecting your friends to show up for things. If they don't give a crap about you, don't give a crap about them.

You got excited for a fun evening out, you picked out a cool outfit and cleared your schedule, and you even started thinking about all the funny stories you wanted to share, when phssssssssssssssst, you got that text message that bursts your bubble.

Getting stood up by a friend stings no less than getting stood up by a date.

Flakes of the world, listen closely:

Your friend made time for you. She probably turned down other invitations she got for that evening to be with you. She postponed hobbies or chores or phone calls with other friends and family to hang out with you.

You might say, "We all have cell phones and I can text her five minutes before I was supposed to meet to tell her I'm not coming." Guess what? YOU'RE STILL RUDE.

A nice person cancels at least 24 hours ahead of time so her friend has time to make other plans for the evening if she wants to, and so she doesn't spend all day getting her hopes up about something that's not going to happen.

A nice person gives a compelling reason for why she cancelled -- if you promised someone your time, you owe them a reason for why you can't give it to them.

A nice person doesn't make plans for an evening when she's already promised someone else to be somewhere else at the same time. Either work it out so you can visit one friend first, then the other friend later; or decline the second invitation and honor the one you've already accepted.

These all sound like stodgy etiquette rules. But they have real meaning. They're about showing your friends that you respect them, that you value them, that they can count on you, that you care about their feelings and they're important enough to you to make time for them. If you're nodding your head as you read them, then I don't see how you'd think that treating your friend with as much rudeness as she treated you is going to make anything better.

Have I broken those rules? Heck yes. And I'm ashamed to admit I've flaked on friends too. We're all human, and I bet even you, flakee, have been the flaker once or twice. But when you're really invested in a friendship, you try not to make it a habit. And when you notice that one of your friends has turned flakiness into a long-standing pattern, it might be time to look at your friendship.

This is going to sound like bad advice, but don't try to teach your friends better manners -- just adjust your expectations. And ditch the friend if she's that annoying.