The Friendship Balls

by admin on April 16, 2012

Once again, my neighbor has phoned me to cancel the plans we made for today. I asked her if she would like to go to an upscale thrift shop and we made plans for lunch as well. Now she has decided that she would rather do housework instead.

Another time I had a coupon for a buy one/get one free ice cream cone. She said she’d go the next weekend. The weekend came and she said she had to put it off until the next weekend. The next weekend came and she wanted to put it off for another weekend. For a forty minute visit, having to wait a month to use a coupon was too much for me and I told her to forget it.

She is oblivious to the fact that, every time she decides to cancel out on me, she makes me reshuffle my schedule. I can understand having to cancel due to illness or an emergency but housework? Laundry? If I don’t want to do something, I decline gracefully when I am invited. I don’t give my word that I’ll do something and then change it at the last minute.

Now I am giving up. I won’t ask her to do anything with me again. 0412-12

You have tossed your neighbor some friendship “balls” and she’s dropping them unreturned.   I suggest ceasing with your efforts to build a better relationship with her and wait to see if she decides to toss a ball or two to you.  If she doesn’t, oh, well.  You will then know that she wasn’t interested in anything other than superficial, neighborly contact. Move on to the next neighbor.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

CaffeineKatie April 16, 2012 at 4:50 am

I believe in “three strikes and you’re out” when it comes to friends and cancelling plans–after 3 times, it’s up to them to contact me for a get together. However, it sounds like this woman wasn’t interested in going anywhere with the OP, and just didn’t know how to refuse. Time to take the hint!

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--Lia April 16, 2012 at 5:31 am

There’s another possibility besides dropping her altogether. If you enjoy her company, when you have some free time, give her a spontaneous call and see if she’d like to come over for a cup of coffee. Or just phone for a nice chat. No build-up or expectations. If you don’t like her that much, then your plan to drop her is good, but do it without malice, in more of a sorry-things-didn’t-work-out sort of way.

If it were me, an outing to a thrift store sounds wonderful. So does a trip just for ice cream. Those things don’t sound taxing to me, but your neighbor might be different. For her, they might be something to gear up for. Or the invitations might have been in made in a way to make her think they could be canceled at the last minute, like you didn’t care, or like they could always rescheduled. Maybe she’s odd or has some social anxiety. Did you ask? Have you said, when you cancel like that, it disappoints me, and I was wondering if I’ve done something to offend, or if the get-together doesn’t sound like fun. What’s up?

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Dorothy Bruce April 16, 2012 at 7:15 am

Thoroughly agree, but I wouldn’t even give them a second chance, never mind the three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule.

Obviously she’s not into you and she doesn’t have the manners to tell you the truth, which is why she was using all those p/a excuses.

Forget about her. And go out there and show her how much fun she’s missing out on.

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Zhoen April 16, 2012 at 7:41 am

Or she may be agoraphobic, wants to go out, but when actually faced with it she is overwhelmed. Drop by for coffee, stop trying to “go out and do something fun.” See how that goes. Or she has a health problem that comes up suddenly, and she’d rather not talk about it, like an irritable bowel, or chronic fatigue. Give her a chance at friendship on her own turf before you write her off as a flake.

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James April 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

In some cases, making others change plans for trivial reasons to suit them can be a sign of a controlling personality. In my experience, these people will usually throw the biggest tantrums if you ask them to change their plans for any reason at all.

Of course, stuff happens and this doesn’t apply when plans are changed for genuinely unexpected reasons. But laundry? Housework?

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Gena April 16, 2012 at 7:59 am

I had a friend who was very much “stuck” in her ways. She had schedules for housework, yardwork, etc. Honestly, you could call her and say – I have tickets to very special event Thursday night, I want to take you and buy you dinnter! And she’d say – I can’t, I have to trim the hedges on Thursday night.

She honestly was just unable to shuffle her plans around. She’s gotten a little better.

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Margaret April 16, 2012 at 8:07 am

I’ve had a similar thing happen to me. I issued two or three invitations to someone, and each time there was a plausible decline. Having some social anxiety of my own (it was a big deal for me to make the call in the first place), I stopped inviting her. I just thought that her busy schedule and mine simply didn’t mesh. While that might indeed be the case, it later occured to me that it could equally well have been a polite, no interest response. We are involved in many of the same organizations, and we are on friendly terms at any related events and know the same group of people from those organizations. However, having been cued in, I have observed a certain amount of “let’s get together after practice” kind of thing to which I am not invited. I accept that that means those people are social acquaintances and not friends (though it does hurt my feelings a bit).

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Cat April 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

Lia, I am the OP. I wish I knew what was up. We have been very good friends for over nine years and this behavior is new.
The trip to the thrift store had already been rescheduled once by my friend. Fine, it happens. When the rescheduled day came , she suddenly decided to do housework instead. Housework is not a surprise. If you live there, you know there’s housework that needs to be done.
To me, saying that I would rather do housework than keep a scheduled appointment with a friend is the equivalent of cancelling a date because I have decided to wash my hair.
I agree with CaffeineKatie. If I am always asking her to do something and she never goes, she has other priorities, and I should ask someone else.

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Bint April 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

I think this is slightly different to someone simply not being interested. Whatever her motives, this neighbour is messing the OP around, and that’s rude.

Don’t bother with people like her. They aren’t worth it and you’re worth far more.

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wowwow April 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

I’m with admin and everyone else here–but, I will say, that I too tend to be someone who sometimes has to cancel plans at the last minute. I really want to do these things with other people, but I have a home business where people drop in unannounced, or last minute problems arise with customers on the phone and I can’t do what I was previously planning to do–(yes, even on the weekends too). So, your neighbor may not be all that bad, and certainly don’t “burn bridges” with her, but concentrate your efforts elsewhere and you’ll probably be much happier.

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Serenity April 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

while she may be being rude, she may also just not to like plans in advance for things that aren’t of the upmost importance/one time only opportunities. I am that way myself, I don’t like to make plans for little things like “let’s go grab a coffee on Thursday” on Monday, bc I don’t know what I’ll feel like actually doing on Thursday. Obviously, things like parties, a rare dinner out with friends you don’t see often, etc. are exceptions, and I will make and keep plans for those occasions. However, I DO tell my friends this when they offer up the more inconsequential things, so I don’t make plans and break them. And all my friends know to call me last minute and ask me along for a walk, coffee, etc. which I often will say yes to :) . If this is her way, she needs to communicate it also, or risk losing friends.

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Shoegal April 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

I wouldn’t ask her again – that thinking is sound. If you have to cancel plans because you are doing housework, laundry – etc. – that excuse is an insult in my book. I would not try calling her with another plan to go out again – take the hint and move on. I wouldn’t be done with her for good or wish her any ill will but friendship is a two way street – you have to give to get – and she isn’t giving.

I have had similiar situations. My husband and I have met people out and issued invitations to get together again. They are quite friendly when we run into them but never reciprocate an invite to get together. I like them but have since learned that they are really acquaintances – not friends. This is off putting – and hurtful but I can’t force them to socialize or include us – so I just accept the nature of our relationship.

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Steph April 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

Since you’ve been friends for so long, cutting ties isn’t a very attractive option. Perhaps something is bothering her. I’m not saying her behavior is appropriate, but sometimes when life stacks up a person forgets about how their behavior affects others.

Maybe give her a few weeks to approach you and even if nothing changes try inviting her over again? Or ask flat out if you’ve done something wrong.

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2browneyes4 April 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

I had a friend that would do the same thing, except she would cancel the plans when SHE invited ME!! She would invite me to dinner after work, and I would postpone errands that I had planned or otherwise make accommodations to go, and then she would call about 10 minutes before we were supposed to meet to say “Oh no! I have a 7 p.m. conference call and can’t go. I swear I didn’t know about this conference call before and it was a surprise to me!” Since her company deals with international organizations, it was believable the first time, but after the third time, I stopped accepting the invitations.

She invited me on an out-of-town ski trip once. Because of connections that she had, I would not have to pay for lodging or lift tickets and only had to pay for my airfare. After I begged my boss for the time off (my boss then was very mean and loved to give me a hard time) and stayed late at work on days leading up to it so that my work would be done, postponed my weekend plans with my boyfriend, and even went to her house that morning to put her luggage in my car so that we could go straight to the airport from work (we only worked a few city blocks apart), she called 15 minutes before I was to pick her up claiming that she had a sudden back pain that she had never felt before. She was even moaning into the phone and it was very clear that she was faking (it sounded like bad porn). I said fine.

She then called me when I got off work to see if I could drop her luggage off at her house. I asked if I could bring it later or if she could come to my house later to get it because we lived in 2 different suburbs outside a major city and the traffic going in the direction of her house was horrendous (say, about an hour and a half to go less than 5 miles)!! She said she couldn’t come to my house because she really didn’t need to be driving, BUT to please leave her luggage behind the garbage cans beside her garage because she was going to pick up her nieces and nephew (ages 4, 2 and 11 months) to babysit them overnight. Really?? It didn’t occur to me until I was already fighting traffic on the way to her house that, if her back hurts so much that she shouldn’t drive, why in the world was she driving to get her nieces and nephew, and, wouldn’t she have to lift those kids repeatedly with her suddenly “bad” back? I dropped off the suitcases (yes, behind the garbage cans since she wasn’t home) and from that point on, started to keep my distance.

The kicker is that when her family started to ask why I had not been around lately, she told them it was because I had a boyfriend and that since I had a boyfriend, I no longer wanted to spend time with her!! Well, I really severed the relationship when my boyfriend and I were breaking up because of some mean things that people were telling each of us about the other, and when I did look to her for support, she seemed very happy that we were breaking up and she said “Great! Now we can hang out again!”

She was famous for being a little deceitful, even with her friends. The things she did were not necessarily harmful, but very annoying. For example, it happened twice that on a national holiday, when we both were off work, she invited me to go shopping. I accepted and she offered to drive. We would then stop by her sister’s house “just for a few minutes.” The next thing you know we are hanging her sister’s curtains or washing her sister’s windows or cooking dinner for the sister’s family (the sister was usually pregnant or some other way incapacitated) and of course, the day would pass and by the time we were done, the stores are closed and it’s 10 p.m. and time to get ready for work the next day. I knew her sister (a former coworker of mine) and I would not have minded helping out when it was convenient for me, but I did NOT appreciate being tricked into doing so with an invitation for shopping!! I stopped that scheme by telling her that I would drive myself and when she mentioned going to her sister’s house, I told her I would meet her there. She would then change her mind about going to the sister’s house (I guess because she wasn’t able to “trap” me there).

I have found that the word/name for people like this is FLAKE!!! I now make a conscious effort to ban people like this from my life.

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Lerah99 April 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

My guess is your neighbor suffers from some sort of depression/social anxiety.

When you ask her, she probably really does want to go out and do that thing with you. But when the day appears, it suddenly seems to be an overwhelming task to get up, dress properly, and go out into the world. So she tells you she has to do laundry or housework and can’t possibly make it that day. Depression like that can be absolutely paralyzing. What’s worse is she probably knows what horrible manners it is to cancel at the last minute, but she is hoping that if she acts like it is no big thing, you won’t make a fuss about it.

At least, I know that is how it was for me. I’d really want to meet my friends for dinner, or I’d really want to go see that movie with them, or get together for game night. But when the day appeared, it was all I could do to get up and go to work. The thought of getting in the car and visiting with my friends after work was just overwhelming. On the weekends I’d sleep 18 hours a day and still feel exhausted and horrible.

After finding the right treatment for my depression, everything changed. Now I make plans and keep them; because taking a shower, changing clothes, doing my hair and meeting my friends at the movie theater no longer feels like trying to scale Everest.

Your neighbor’s possible depression/social anxiety is not your fault and you certainly don’t have to keep making your plans around her involvement.

Lia’s suggestion of spontaneous invitations is a really great one. It often feels like less effort to just get in the car and head to Starbucks with a friend right now, than planning for it two days from now.

Because two days from now a depressed person will find herself lying in bed thinking “I have to get up, find something to wear, shower, do my hair, put on some lipstick, grab a cute purse, get in the car… Once I get there I need to have something interesting to talk about. What am I going to say? What if she wants to sit there for hours and hours? What if she wants to go shopping after? I’m just not up for all that today. Gosh, do I even have a clean outfit to wear? I can’t do this. Maybe she’ll be willing to meet for coffee next week. I could do this next week. Then I’ll have time to do laundry and think of something funny to say…”

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Vee April 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm

If you really are very good friends, you should be able to ask her what’s up. If you can’t then maybe your friendship isn’t as close as you think.

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Library Diva April 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Cat, since this behavior is new, and since you’ve had a valued, nine-year friendship with this woman, I think you should ask her what’s going on. Maybe you inadvertently offended her, and this is a passive-aggressive way of letting you know. Maybe she was actually telling the truth about the housework, just not the whole truth — maybe her book club was coming Monday night, she looked around at the state of the place, realized she was on her last chance to do something about it, and regretfully cancelled. Maybe she’s got some issue in her life that’s blurring her focus and making it harder for her to manage everything. Talk to her and see what she says, and I hope you are pleasantly surprised.

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Cat Whisperer April 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm

When someone tells you that they’re cancelling out on a friendship function to stay home and do housework, the message is loud and clear: they’re just not that into you.

Facts are, sometimes people we want to be friends with don’t want to be friends with us. That doesn’t mean they are bad people or we are bad people. It just means that on one side, there isn’t enough interest to make things work.

My advice to OP: move on. And you might want to recalibrate your expectations of other people, so that you’re not trying to do all the heavy lifting in a friendship by yourself. It’s like admin says: you toss someone the ball, and if they don’t toss it back, don’t keep tossing them balls. Move on and find someone else to play with, always understanding that it isn’t a reflection on you that this person didn’t want to play. They just weren’t that into you.

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Just me April 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I give people two chances, then I move on and find better friends. Really, people, if you don’t want to do something with someone, just tell them you’re not interested instead of doing what that neighbor did. That way the person asking won’t waste time on someone not interested in friendship.

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boxy April 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I think what your friend is doing is just rude. You simply don’t cancel shopping and lunch for housework. It’s rude. Her “yes” is not “yes.”

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TylerBelle April 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I could have written this post. I have a similar friend and I have since distanced myself with her mainly for this reason, for she would cancel plans continuously. It didn’t matter if she would make them or myself, she’d bail. It also didn’t matter if the plans were made in a week or more, a day or more, or even the day of, I’d get that dreaded call to hear one of her excuses (ranging from suddenly remembering something she had to tend to right at that time, to suddenly having a headache).

The suggestion of calling and meeting for coffee or shopping is nice, and I hope it works for folks, but gotta say my friend would have called to cancel before I could get myself out the door. For she’s done this unfortunately when I gave her a window of a few hours time. We’ll talk on the phone, and I’ve looked for her on Facebook, but that’s about it for now.

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Enna April 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I agree with Lia and Library Diva try to find out what is going on. I would be ask your neighbour what is going on sinc eyou have had a nine year firendship.

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Amanda Kate April 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

“I have to do my household chores” sounds to me like the old “I have to wash my hair line”. Also, who would turn down free ice cream? It sounds like she’s not interested in being friends at all.

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kingsrings April 16, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I’ve had something similar happen with a couple of friends of mine. It’s not so much cancelling on the event I invite them to, but it’s being interrogated about the said social event I’m inviting them to. For instance, I invited someone to a casual party put on by my friend. He grilled me about every single detail of this simple get-together, asking a million questions about anything and everything about it and then kept saying that he’d have to think about it. Why he was turning a simple, casual (and yes, I let him know it was such) party into such a complicated matter was beyond me. The same with another friend. I asked her to a music concert, that was FREE, and she grilled me about every single detail regarding the kind of music, the format, the songs, the key they were going to be played in, the length of the concert, how long the group had been together, their training, and kept saying she’d never heard of them so she was doubtful. Why she was compelled to ask so many questions and why she was making it such a hard thing I have no idea again. I think in the future if I run into that again with anyone, I’ll just bypass the many questions and tell them, “If you’re interested in going, just let me know”.

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Yvaine April 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm

browneyes, your friend sounds horrible! She’s not just annoying or flaky, she’s a world-class jerk.

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Angie April 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

this post is basically the story of my life. I’m a college student, and a couple of my friends in my hometown are always cancelling on me because “they have too much work” or “their families are forcing them to spend time at home.” like, I can understand having too much work during the school year, but they’re like this even during summer and winter break. how much work can a person possibly have during those times? and they can’t stand up to their families and say “hey you should have organized something sooner because I already have plans”? it’s definitely not that they don’t like me or anything like that, because we have all been friends for years and I don’t get that vibe of dislike from them. they’re just lame sometimes.

I also have a friend at college who cancels on me almost every time he makes plans with me — yes, HE is the one who invites ME. he’s a grad student and he always uses the excuse of things randomly coming up in the lab. I can understand that every once in a while, but he also does things like say “I’ll text you when I get out of work so we can hang out” and then never text me. and then 2 days later he texts me about something random and totally forgets we were ever supposed to hang out, doesn’t apologize or anything!

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Jenny May April 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I totally know how this feels.

I had a good friend for many years who was great to hang out with. Neither of us had a car, but we lived only about a mile apart, so we’d just walk to one another’s places to hang out. Then she moved a half-mile further away, and it was as if that extra half-mile was just made it too long of a walk for her. She’d always be available whenever the plan was to hang out at her place, meaning I’d be the one walking the distance there and back, but whenever it came to hanging at my place, she’d always be busy with something.
This went on for months until an occasion when we’d made plans to hang out at my place two weeks in advance, because we were both genuinely busy until then. When the day came, I sent her a text message to see when she’d be over, and she replied, “Do you think we could hang out at my place instead?” I responded, “I actually have a pulled leg muscle from overdoing it while working out yesterday. The walk would be hard for me.” Her response was, “Oh. Well, I’m busy cleaning the apartment. Maybe some other time.” That was the last time I asked her to do anything.

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Jared Bascomb April 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm

These activities — going shopping, getting ice cream — are really quite minor events, even if the ice cream is two-fer. I agree that she’s being flaky, but it’s not like she’s letting you down at the last minute for a major commitment, like a ride to the airport. (Someone leaving me in the lurch for *that* at the last minute would never be forgiven!)
I’d just roll with it, and make the next invites more spontaneous: if she declines to go, fine; if she does, that’s good too. Anything involving big bucks or serious planning is another story.

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Chocobo April 16, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I wouldn’t make assumptions about her intent. Assuming the worst in people only leads to disaster. Talk to her about it or leave the ball on her side of the court if you wish–no one would blame you for dropping her from your social calendar–but dwelling on why she’s behaving this way will only increase misunderstanding and the potential for hurt feelings.

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Spacegal April 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I have people that mean well, want to help but always get sidetracked. Things never get done. I have schedules to keep, and it doesn’t seem to phase them. I say, hang out when you don’t need to be somewhere to do something. Too much pressure on both of you.

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FerrisW April 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I agree with Lerah99- it could be they have crippling depression.

I went through a terrible time in my life where even the simplest tasks filled me with dread. At the time I didn’t understand it was depression, so it just looked like I was a flake. I constantly cancelled plans with people because I couldn’t face getting out of bed, let alone getting dressed and having to talk to people. It was hard to have to pretend to be enjoying myself when nothing brought me joy, and I didn’t want to bring people down.

Before that I had a 3-strikes policy with friends- and to some degree still do now- but I give people the benefit of the doubt more. I accept that maybe they’re going through the same thing I did. So please keep an open mind when people flake on you. Some people are horrible and don’t care that they’re messing you around, but some people are lying in their bed, after cancelling your plans because they can’t face even the smallest tasks, feeling guilty for ruining things for you and thinking that you probably hate them now.

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Mabel April 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Urg, I had a friend in college who did that. She had a car and I didn’t, and it would really irk me when she bailed on stuff we had planned to do when I couldn’t get there on my own. Once she did it when we were supposed to attend another friend’s music recital, at a church across town rather than the school auditorium, which I could have walked to. I got all dressed up and she never showed! I missed my friend’s recital completely!

Lerah99–this could be the case. Also if she has something going on like work pressure that could just completely sap her energy. I would try to ask her what’s up and if there was anything I could do to help.

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Josie April 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I’d like to echo Zhoen’s comment near the beginning of this thread, having worn both of those hats myself. (Illness and agoraphobia can be a chicken/egg type scenario.) She may earnestly want to make the effort to go out and see you, but find herself unable when it actually comes time to follow through. Perhaps try the visit at home and try to inquire delicately to see if there is something at work behind her excuses before cutting ties entirely, particularly as she is a long time friend.

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