Person A: “I am so sorry I am late. I was stuck in traffic.”
Person B: “No kidding. Cause, you know, I chartered a plane to get over here!”
I am so tempted to respond this way to every Person A who has been notoriously late to a meeting or rendez-vous with me and arrives with this excuse. They may be friends, peers, family, guests, or perfect strangers, it matters little WHO they are because tardy is a serious lack of respect.
Am I the only one who feels this way about punctuality? Has our culture written off the habit of being on time as insignificant and inconsequential? Can we not muster up the confidence to politely ask that you do me the courtesy to simply be on time?
Can we not have enough respect for the other person’s time and effort and show up at the hour that we said we would? Are we really that incapable?
Get Confident in 21 Easy Steps
Emergency or Excuse?
Let me dispel a few preconceived notions first. Out of politeness or pure lack of confidence, you may never hear or dispense these words but the quiet truth deserves a voice too:
Being late does not make you an important person or a special person. You may be both but not by being late.
Being late once or twice in your life may be unavoidable. Being late consistently makes you unreliable.
Being late means you do not respect the other person’s time. Period.
Being late makes you a rude person because you lack consideration and respect for the other person and for the commitment you made to both of you.
Your apologies for being late, however profuse and sincere, do not excuse the tardy. (I am not saying not to apologize, I am saying not to be late!)
Your reasons for being late simply insult the other person’s intelligence.
To be cautiously transparent, I state the obvious: Emergencies are exempt from the list above. Emergency, however, is defined as an unavoidable and uncontrollable situation which puts you in a position to not comply with your plans.
The short list below shows examples of what is not an emergency and instead results from lack of planning and a personal choice:
You spilling coffee (or any beverage) on yourself on your way out the door.
Your children making you late. For whatever reason.
You have an argument with your spouse, your partner, your neighbor and then you are late.
Your dog or cat or four-legged friend does something to make you late. Anything!
You answer an unexpected call which runs over and makes you late.
You lose track of time and are thereby late.
You forget altogether about the appointment and are embarrassingly late.
You are “stuck” in traffic which makes the route longer than without it. You arrive late.
The last one as you know from the opening lines is my pet peeve. Calculating the distance between two points takes simple planning. If you have never traveled that route and are not familiar with traffic patterns, give yourself at least 15 extra minutes on top of what Google maps or your GPS dictates. Traffic is not a new phenomena in our life. It can be managed extremely well with planning. Traffic does not control you, excuse you, make you late or hold you back. You do. Be smart, be responsible, and plan around it!
On the other hand, life can have other plans for you and present you with some real emergencies such as:
Your punctual train is delayed because of unforeseen circumstances.
You have an accident while in transit.
You become ill or unable to go the meeting – in which case you will be a no-show not just late.
Someone you care for becomes ill and needs your help.
May none of these real emergencies ever show up in your life and may you not find yourself chasing the clock every day from too many commitments, too much activity and too many promises. May you embrace instead a much better alternative: punctuality in all things.
Why to be Punctual in Life?
Welcoming punctuality is more than just an admirable trait; it introduces you to a brave new world that you will love!
Why on earth is it important to be punctual in life anyway if there are far too many Person A types around.
Because it is the right thing to do – but I shall give you more reasons too.
The best motivator I can give you is that if you are a conscientious Person A, being late adds unnecessary stress to your life and breaking the habit removes it. As we know, stress can be quite the little big giant of trouble!
Below are 11 more reasons why punctuality matters in a professional world among smart people:
You show respect for the Person B in your life.
You show that you respect yourself enough to keep your word.
You prove that you can be trusted.
You are appreciated for being on time.
You are regarded as a reliable person.
You are seen as a professional.
You are taken seriously and on your word.
You build a strong reputation for your character.
You open doors to opportunities without noticing it for all the above reasons.
You eliminate stress from your life by removing guilt and anxiety for being late.
You do the right thing.
What to do When Someone is Late?
You have choices. The most popular choice is that of never mentioning it, being flexible with people’s schedule, and a myriad of other reasons to convince yourself to forget about it.
Or (can you tell this is my recommendation?) you could bring it up gently once and then drop it and in the future, know that you have a choice as well as they do. You cannot change any one except yourself but a kind reminder in a gentle tone will get the message across. If you are on the receiving side of this, I would encourage you to see it from the other person’s point of view. Your time is just as valuable as theirs, regardless of your life circumstance.
In response to Person A being late:
“Hey John/Jill/honey/bro/sis/you, I just wanted to let you know that I also went through a lot of effort to be here on time and I still had to wait 10 (or more) minutes for you. I hope that this will not happen again in our future meetings.”
Be polite, be sincere, be kind but be honest and have these tougher conversations for more rewarding relationships in the future. And if they need to be motivated in their life, have them read my book on the subject.
We make our choices in a free world about lifestyle, commitments, priorities, and family. If we are responsible individuals, we will only take on as much as we can handle and handle that which we take on very well. If we are reliable individuals, we will meet our commitments to others or break the commitment professionally if we cannot make it. If we are savvy individuals, we will prioritize our activities. And if we are smart individuals, we will plan ahead, show up early and set an example to follow.
One of my favorite lines from an all-time outstanding movie, “The Birdcage“, is when Agador, the “chef” announces that dinner is served as it is 8 o’clock, to which Amand, (beloved Mr. Robin Williams in one of his best roles) responds: “8 o’clock – that means 8:15, 8:30, quarter to 9” to which Agador scratches his head as he heads back to the kitchen.
Amand in all his glory of a character is wrong in this instance! 8 o’clock means 8 o’clock to people unless appended with a clause, such as “I don’t really mean 8 sharp.“, “You realize I am going to be at least 10 minutes late. Right?” or “It’s 8ish we are meeting, give or take a few minutes.” Otherwise, 8 o’clock it is, baby. Be there or be square!
Being late is not in your DNA. It is not a characteristic trait. It is just a good habit and like all habits, it can be broken or preserved. It is a matter of personal choice and priority. Make the right one every time!
A Penny for your Thoughts
If I have not stirred the pot with this one, I am lucky. Really, tell me, is it just me being so persistent on punctuality and respecting other people’s time, including the very minutes? Do you make an effort to show up on time? Do you feel indifferent about being on time or being late? Please tell us your thoughts! Feel free to disagree with me but be prepared with good reason :)!