Why Does It Feel So Good To Cancel Plans?

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
There should be a small graveyard for all the times I've said "let's hang out" and never did, and a massive cemetery for all the "sorry, something came up" texts I've sent. Canceling plans is unfortunately my thing. The small twangs of guilt about not hanging out with a friend are just not as strong as the blissful freedom I feel sitting alone and doing absolutely nothing — but that's just my opinion. In the words of Beyoncé, "Freedom! Freedom! I can't move" (from my couch).
The truth is, at any given moment, there's probably one to one billion unopened Facebook events that you can pretend you haven't seen, and the world will keep spinning. And even plans with friends you see all the time are destined to fall through the cracks if you don't put in the effort to follow up. But is that bad?
"If it regularly feels good to cancel plans, those plans probably shouldn't have been made in the first place," says Andrea Bonior, PhD, LCP, author of The Friendship Fix. "The question is, why are you making plans if you don't want to keep them?" Fair point. Answer: Because if I pretend like I'm interested at first, it will feel less bad for both parties when I have to cancel.
In many cases, you're just saying yes to things out of guilt, Dr. Bonior says. "You think, I can't say no at first, but as hard as it is to say no, it's better than flaking at the last minute," she says. Waiting for the possibility of the other person bailing first is also just not a good idea. "You're going to end up disappointing someone, so you might as well front-load the disappointment," Dr. Bonior says.
When you say yes to plans you know you're going to flake on, it leads to expectation of flaking and you become the "unreliable" friend, Dr. Bonior says. "Some of it is social anxiety," she says. "You have the best intentions, then the party approaches and you freak out and don't want to go." If that sounds like you, then Dr. Bonior says you should examine your social anxiety with a professional and figure out ways to work on it. It's also completely valid to have bitten off more than you can chew in a day and want to have some alone time, she says.
There's also sort of a rebellious pleasure and relief when you feel like you're in charge of your plans. "You're reasserting control, and that's a sign that you got roped into the plans in the first place," Dr. Bonior says. "It's like, You made me say yes, but I wasn't allowed to say no, so now I'm asserting control." Now that, I get. I have very solid, lasting friendships with people I see IRL when I want to. But when certain plans happen in certain scenarios that I don't enjoy (like going to a loud bar) actually roll around, the thought of ripping myself away from the thing I have going on alone (petting my dog, watching Bridgerton, scrolling through TikTok — pressing stuff) just isn't worth it, so I cancel. Taking Dr. Bonior's advice, what I should be doing is just changing the plans so that they're actually something I want to do.
Another thing to consider: Maybe I'm just lazy? Maybe we all are, honestly. "We make plans in such a casual way that it's easy to use technology to cancel on someone," she says. "If you were invited by text, you can cancel by text and not hear their disappointment." (Of course, technology isn't all evil, because there are tons of ways you can keep in touch with your friends, especially far-flung ones, on social media and never leave the couch.)
But Bonior says it's worth it to just put in a little effort to make and keep plans, otherwise you "miss out on a chance to have intimacies in friendships," she says. Those plans can be hanging on the couch, or going to the club, but they just have to be an activity you actually want to do with people you actually want to see. So yeah, does anyone want to hang out this weekend? I'm doing nothing.
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