How to Cancel Last-Minute, Without Being a Dick

Red pencil marking an X on a calendar

I've been a real dick in the past about not respecting people's time.

Exhibit A: An ex-girlfriend broke up with me because I canceled on her last-minute (repeatedly). Here are the text highlights of the disintegrating relationship.


Exhibit B: A woman I had connected with on OkCupid called me out in the comments when I started blogging.

Ouch again.

These were painful slaps in the face, and they definitely stung. I felt stupid for not understanding earlier, but they taught me an important lesson.

Why canceling last-minute sucks

Let’s say you have dinner plans with a friend tonight, and you cancel last-minute. This sucks for 2 main reasons:

  1. Your friend was looking forward to seeing you tonight, and now that won’t happen. This is what we all think about when canceling someone.

  2. Your friend made space in her calendar for you. She potentially declined other dinner invitations. She potentially said no to a hot date. This is what we easily forget.

How we usually cancel last-minute

Our natural reaction is to focus on ourselves, and thus, reason #1. I’m sick, so I wouldn’t be very good company. Or this other thing came up, and my mind will be elsewhere, so I won’t be very good company.

So you apologize and explain why you have to cancel, and that you feel really bad. Here’s one I got recently (10 minutes before a scheduled date).

And sure, I want you to feel better if you are sick, and I hope whatever stressful thing came up gets better, but my first thoughts usually center on my disappointment and the opportunities I could have pursued during the time we had plans.

And I think it leaves a particularly sour taste if we only think of ourselves in these moments.

A better way to cancel last-minute

So what can we do? 

Step #1: Don’t cancel, if at all possible! This is obvious, of course. But it’s important to restate that nobody enjoys being canceled on last-minute. No matter how great your apologies are, at a certain point, they lose credibility.

If you’re sick and can power through, do that and reschedule the plans you have for the rest of the week so you can rest & recover. If someone else can handle the emergency and is available, ask them to step in.

But let's be real. Shit happens, and you have to cancel. Which brings me to...

Step #2: If you must cancel last-minute, consider how it impacts the other person when forming your apology. Think about what opportunities they may have given up, or who else they may have invited to the group event instead of you. Sure, they may really appreciate the extra time back, or it may be one of the few times a week they go out of their routine and they chose to spend it with you. 

Why does it matter?

I got sick last week, and as much as I hate doing it, I had to cancel on people last-minute. But, I wanted to try doing it better.

And that's tough to do, especially when you do have to cancel last-minute, because that's when you're sick or overwhelmed or emotionally distraught.

But if you manage to pull it off, I believe it sends a message about the kind of person you are. Someone who values other's time, someone who values relationships, and someone who deserves another shot.

Trying to not be a dick

These thoughts were floating in my head as I was canceling last week, and here are the (imperfect) messages I sent.

Guess what? I still focused on myself. If I could do it over, I would add “you made time for me when you could have been doing anything else, and my actions will be more respectful of that in the future.

What’s your perspective?

As you can tell, I’m not perfect at this. But I want to be better. And hopefully inspire others to do the same.

I’m curious of your perspective on this. Do you have examples of good or bad last-minute cancellations? My objective is not to shame people, but rather to start a dialogue so we can all learn.

Leave a comment or drop me a note, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Do you freeze up around attractive women? Have you never kissed a girl? Have you never had a girlfriend? Do you feel that everybody else has friends but you don’t? I’ve been there. And it sucks.

Here's my 30 second story: 

I use a wheelchair and I have a degenerative muscle condition. I was always the shy, nerdy kid, and I had ZERO success with women – my first kiss didn't happen until I was 22 years old. I went to an Ivy League University and landed my dream job at Microsoft, but I was miserable. After the girl I was in love with told me, "I don't know how any woman could be attracted to a guy in a wheelchair," I hired a dating coach to turn my life around. Now, my social calendar is booked weeks in advance, and I get to choose the friends that I really want to spend time with. Now, I've been on 60+ dates, I've enjoyed sex and intimacy with several women, and I've had incredible girlfriends. 

If you desire similar experiences, I know I can help you. Get my practical tips for improving your social and dating life by signing up below. I would love to help you, because now that I've experienced these massive improvements in my life, I wish someone would have stepped in much earlier and helped me.

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