What do you do when other people “don’t show up”? Whether it’s that you find yourself sitting alone at a coffee shop waiting for a friend who was supposed to meet you, awaiting an email response on a time-sensitive issue, or dealing with the repercussions of a task that someone else said they would take care of but didn’t – the fact is that people are going to disappoint you and let you down. Lately it seems that I have found myself in several conversations with people regarding the impact of “other people’s inability to be dependable”. We’ve all experienced it – some more than others and quite frankly – it stinks. If you are a person who regards yourself as someone who is dependable and responsible it can be almost unconscionable to comprehend. Afterall, how hard is it to pick up the phone, send a quick email or simply say, “I’m sorry – I won’t be able to do it, to make it, etc.”? Well, apparently, it’s very hard for some people. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are not intentionally causing stress – but honestly for the purposes of this blog – trying to decipher the myriad of possible reasons why some folks are unable to be reliable is a detour down a path that won’t get me to where I want to go.
The issue I would like to address is the impact this experience has on the person who was left waiting. It really is a “sensitive subject”, though at first glance it might not seem that way. But what I find is that being the one who does “show up” can be pretty complicated. The emotional responses can be pretty widely varied. You may feel angry, because you have re-arranged your schedule and shuffled around other important agenda items only to find yourself frustrated with a block of “free-time” that you would just as soon preferred not to have at that particular moment. You may be relieved because you were tired and not really “up for it” yourself. You may question yourself – “why did I count on that person when history tells me they are unreliable in this regard?” Or you may feel simply hurt and frustrated. The possibilities are many and I am sure there are others I haven’t mentioned here – but suffice it to say that most of the time – you aren’t left feeling “happy”.
No matter what the exact circumstances or emotional response is to any given event of this nature – I think you need to make a conscious and concerted effort to do a little healing before you can move on. Whether you take a little breather for yourself to calm and refocus – call someone and vent a bit – or simply acknowledge your disappointment and re-strategize about your day, there has to be some sort of “re-set” in the moment. But beyond the re-set which is re-active in nature, there is a pro-active piece as well. The reality is – there are always going to be people who, for whatever reason, are simply not going to “show-up” for you. And it generally doesn’t feel good when they don’t. But if you know this, you can choose to prepare yourself for its eventuality. Maybe not every time, and maybe being miffed for a little while isn’t too much to bear, but you can choose to not let it de-rail you.
The big problem lies in letting it “ruin your morning, day or evening”. ‘Cause the fact is that you “showed-up” or were ready and willing to take care of the task at hand at that’s a good thing (not that I want to quote Martha Stewart or anything). The reality is you can’t control what other people are going to do or not do – so focus on what you can control. You are in charge of how you both “react” and how you “approach” the situation in the first place. “Show-up” for yourself and allow yourself to take the actions necessary to keep moving forward. Don’t worry – you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try this out – so next time you find you “threw a party and nobody came” – remember to celebrate with the guest of honor – you!