09/29/2015 11:04 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Flaking Is Not Okay. Here's How to Avoid It

We all make commitments we don't keep. In some cases it's simply unavoidable. A family emergency or last minute work assignment can get in the way.

But I found myself making promises and regularly failing to keep them.


The gang at the office would plan a happy hour. "I'm in," I'd say. But the day of the get-together I'd make an excuse and bail.

Help with a yard sale Saturday? "Sure. No problem." But the weekend would roll around and suddenly I couldn't make it.

I was a chronic RSVP breaker - especially when it came to weddings. I figured there were plenty of people invited and they wouldn't miss me. I was wrong.

I'd feel guilty afterward and for years I thought this meant I was a bad person. Why would I commit and cancel? I built a reputation for flaking.

The problem was that I was a people pleaser. I felt the need to say yes to make the other person happy when in fact I knew I really didn't want to do this stuff in the first place.

Sound familiar?

Perhaps you honestly believe you're really committed when you agree to these plans. Think again.

When is the last time you purchased tickets to your favorite artist's concert and didn't show up? How many times have you planned a vacation, purchased airline tickets and backed out at the last minute? The reason you kept those plans is because you were committed - either monetarily or because you really, really wanted to go.

Integrity is doing what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it. In other words, it's keeping your word. If you've stepped out of integrity on a regular basis, you can change.

The fix is simple. I stopped promising to do things I know I'm not interested in doing. It's okay to decline invitations. You can say no. I now tell people that I respectfully decline all invites to weddings. They're just not my thing (judge if you will.)

This applies to work as well. Don't make unrealistic deadlines. Be honest with your co-workers and you supervisor on the time it will take to get the project done.

If you're not sure whether to make a commitment, tell the person inviting you that you will get back to them in a few days.

Take time to think about whether you want to help with the yard sale or go on that group outing with the office crew.

As I wrote in my book, The Perception Myth, "The most important lesson of all is to make decisions for yourself. It's your life and only you know what serves you best."

If you don't want to do something, decline the offer. People may be a little disappointed, but they'll respect you more when you are honest with them and they'll love it when you keep the commitments you actually make.

(photo courtesy Brad Wheelis)