While everyone is late sometimes, we all have that one friend whose three favorite words seem to be, “Sorry I’m late!” They are always stuck in traffic or on a phone call or at the office or handling a family emergency. Or they simply waltz in 10 minutes after everyone else has been seated, full of apologies, but still late. While the occasional excuse is understandable, when it’s every time, it’s clearly a pattern. So why are some people like this? According to an article in Psychology Today, the reason may be as simple as some people just don’t want to be early.
While that sounds trite, there’s a psychological basis for this—and it may be a completely unconscious decision by the latecomer. The article lays out several reasons that people may not want to be early. Some don’t want to sit around waiting for other people, preferring to show up a little bit late to ensure that they aren’t wasting their own time. A 2002 article in USA Today looked at the cost of tardiness in the business world and it quickly became clear that time really is money for some people. Outside of the corporate setting, a friend may be juggling multiple projects and showing up late for a coffee date may give them just enough time to cross something off their to-do list.
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Other latecomers may show up a few minutes late because waiting at a restaurant or movie theater by themselves makes them uncomfortable. If you’re particularly shy, dislike being alone, or are afraid that others may judge you for dining alone, being early can feel like an ordeal. This may be an entirely unconscious thought process and people who seem confident and bold may not even be aware of their fears or the reasons for their tardiness.
According to Psychology Today, some chronically late people may be tardy to avoid being rude. While that sounds contradictory since being late is also rude, if someone is hosting a dinner party it may be ruder to show up exactly on time when the host is still running around finishing up last minute details.
Being late also has a lot to do with personality type, too. The most common reasons that people are frequently late is that they fail to accurately judge how long a task will take. Since Type A and Type B people actually feel time pass differently, as the Wall Street Journal reports it can be hard for people to accurately assess how much time is needed. Also, those laidback Type B types tend to be later and there’s not much they can do about it aside from changing their personality.
While always being late can feel incredibly rude, knowing that chronic tardiness may not be a conscious decision is an important fact to remember the next time you’re frustrated and waiting for your always-late friend.