Skip to content

This Is How To Deal With A Flaky Friend, From A Therapist & Relationship Expert

Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
By Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy
February 7, 2022

We've all encountered the flaky friend: They agree to plans (quite eagerly, in fact!), then back out at the last minute or fail to show their face at all. Not again. According to licensed therapist and relationship expert Nedra Glover Tawwab, MSW, LCSW, your frustration is completely valid—and as she shares on the mindbodygreen podcast, it's important to set boundaries to protect your emotional well-being. Sure, canceled plans every now and again aren't cause for concern, but if it becomes a predictable pattern, it's necessary to address. 

If your friend has a pattern of canceling (or ghosting), here's how to have a healthy boundaries conversation. 

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

How to set boundaries with a flaky friend. 

Says Tawwab, you have two options: First, she suggests reconsidering how often you ask this friend for plans. "Because if this is a truly flaky person, I don't know if you telling them that is going to change their behavior," she notes. What you can do, however, is remove them from the invite list. Harsh? Perhaps, but if your emotional well-being is at risk, it might be a necessary move. 

"Sometimes the boundary is with us, and we have to change the way that we engage with this person," Tawwab adds. That doesn't mean you should purposefully exclude them all the time—but if you have an event or social gathering coming up that feels a little more high stakes, maybe choose someone a bit more reliable to accompany you. 

If you don't feel comfortable editing your invite list, Tawwab also recommends having an open and honest conversation with your flaky friend. "There are other times where you do need to have a conversation and say, 'It is very important to me that you come to this thing. Can you honor that? And if you can't, please say no,'" she explains. After all, it's important to express your needs and speak your boundaries—otherwise, how will your friend know to respect them? "We think there is this level of common sense that exists in society, [but] people don't know better," Tawwab continues. "We have to teach people how to be in a relationship with us; we have to speak of things that we think are common sense; we still have to communicate those things to people."  

And, look, good, lifelong friends can also be flaky—setting these boundaries does not mean you should end the relationship (unless it's just time). Quite the opposite, actually: "Often when people are setting boundaries in relationships, it's because they care about the relationship," Tawwab says. "When people are placing boundaries with you, it is best to consider it a healthy step because they are trying to continue with the relationship." That said, think about these boundaries as enhancing the value of your friendship. 

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

The takeaway. 

Flaky behavior is frustrating to deal with—it can understandably stress you out! To protect your emotional well-being, Tawwab suggests setting boundaries with this person, whether that means inviting them to fewer plans or having an honest discussion about your needs.

Jamie Schneider
Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.