How do you maintain a friendship with someone who is unreliable?

He has many good qualities however his word most often does not seem to have any weight behind it. And when I tell him this in a gentle way, he just gets angry and tells me my ego just wants to be seen. Am I crazy?

3 Response(s)

You are definitely not crazy.  I have a friend who often cancels and I recognize that is not my preference so I had to decide if the friendship was worth it to me and it was. In the end it may come down to whether what you gain from the friendship is worth what it cost. For me when I share what is going on with me and the person gets angry, especially if it was often, I am not sure that would sit well with me. How does it feel for you? Is this relationship valuable to you? Good luck! savannah

Responded on April 6, 2017.

I wonder what happens if ask with open ended questions? You wrote “when I tell him this…” and that has made me wonder about the process or technique used. you are gentle, so perhaps that same gentle curiosity could be used for an exploratory conversation?To what extent is this unreliability affecting your activities in practical terms? Can you plan in a bit of room for his unreliability?

You recognise the good qualities of the person which gives you a starting point for your considerations about the relationship.

Responded on April 13, 2017.

Here’s what occurred to me to share:

Assessments of trust

  • Competence
  • Sincerity
  • Capacity

If the friend does not have the capacity to keep agreements (e.g. they are overbooked or have a demanding situation like a baby or business or illness) or the competence (e.g.  time commitments are difficult for them to manage despite their sincerity and having capacity) then one could trust them to be unreliable about appointments and find ways to interact  that don’t require the other to be reliable. Enjoy seeing them at events or locations where you both happen to be there at the same time for example.  Or be spontaneous and catch them in the moment.  Or feel free to change your plans at the last minute even though it may inconvenience them on occasion.  Sometimes it seems the Divine timing calendar has something else in store for us both, and to be open that things may rightly change and whoever tells the truth about that first is doing a service for the relationship.

If they make agreements they are not sincere about (as opposed to just blowing it or not being able to deliver) then that is a different issue. I think it would be helpful to explore what is missing with regard to these distinctions of trust- which come out of the work of Dr. Fernando Flores.

I try to listen for the quality of any yes I get– if I am hearing a maybe even though the word is yes, I internally count that as a maybe and proceed accordingly. I try to be clearly non-coercive in any offers or requests to friends so that if maybe, no or- I want to commit but I may not be up for it later- are the genuine response, that my peeps have a chance to say so and feel safe to say so.

I have some friends who just are always going to be a “maybe” or “unless something better comes along” or “if I have enough energy to do it” or “unless my ex makes a last minute demand for child care”  to any plans with me even if they are speaking an enthusiastic yes when making the plan..  So I go to their baseline of reliability in my dealings with them and feel free to hold commitments in that same light. I keep a plan B for people who cancel or no show frequently.  We manage to have fun once in awhile and I am not resentful about broken agreements.  If people want to play double standard with me- i.e they ‘re free to be unreliable but I am expected to always be reliable, I tend to see that as subordination and that isn’t really a basis for friendship in my book.

I think it bears mentioning that if someone is sincere and just overwhelmed or unskillful- it can be worth it to remind them, to double check that you are still on, on the day before or the day of, and to refrain from punishing them if they double book by accident or have changed plans.  I also think that it bears mentioning to be honest about what you want as a baseline set of standards between yourself and friends.   And if you feel hurt or angry or ripped off energetically by their breaking agreements, I do think it is important to be candid about that.  We all live so much in our own swirl… it can be easy to not realize that our actions have consequences for others.

Hope this is helpful!


Responded on October 11, 2018.