The New York Observer posted this today about flakiness. We’re all becoming flakes – we can’t commit to anything, we turn up late, we multi-book and take the best option on the night, and often we just don’t turn up…failing to extend a reason or apology. Apparently New York is being struck by an epidemic of flakiness. And there’s a new blog, “Fuck Yeah, Socially Lazy Sloth,” whose entire raison d’être is to make fun of flakes.
I pretty much wrote the same article a few years ago for a magazine. Click on the image to read.
The Observer article goes on about how technology is meaning we’re so busy that we have to be flaky to cope. And that technology is also making it easier to be a flake – we can text someone to say we’re late or not coming, which is so much more enabling than calling, or fronting up and explaining you can’t stay. But:
The result is that New Yorkers are walking around with a gnawing feeling in their hearts that they are disappointing and insulting everyone around them.
And this, too:
As obligations proliferate and ordinarily meticulous people find themselves unable to maintain the social vigilance they expect of themselves, small emotional injuries are inflicted with unprecedented frequency. After a while, the unanswered messages start to bleed together—but while the specifics of their content may fade from memory, you remain vaguely conscious of all the people you’re ignoring, all the people who are surely extrapolating from your continued silence that they are not worth your time.
I’m really struggling with all this right now. And I’ve had to come up with ways to get around it.
This is my manifesto:
1. Respond to all requests. If it takes less than a minute, do it straight away.
2. If the invite is flakey, push back for firmness. My friend “Z” sends out emails, “shall we catch up on the weekend”. I write back “love to, tell me what you have in mind, and when”. When she comes back with a firm invite, then I reward her efforts by jumping in enthusiastically.
3. Book up in advance. I’ve come to accept this is cool. My friend “Ali” will request dinner in 3 weeks’ time. It’s a firm request. I know she doesn’t flake. Once it’s in the diary I actually look forward to it. Because it’s firm.
4. Flake as little as possible. It’s not good for the spirit to have such loose boundaries. It puts out a wobbly energy. And that’s what you’ll get back.
5. First in best dressed. Yep, sometimes a better offer comes in. But if you’ve committed, don’t flip. You never really know if something will be better than something else. When I spoke to Caroline Myss the other day she said she chooses by going with the first thing. Bang. Done. Committed. Good.
6. All that said flake if you need to. But flake firm. That is, write a considered email or make a care-full call to say you will not be making it. A piffy text fired off at the traffic lights also sends out really wobbly energy.
No one wants wobbly energy attached to them. It will make everything wobbly! Don’t you think?