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Dealing With People Who Say “Yes” But Mean “No” – Daily Blog #46

Weeks of planning. Email chains over 100 long. Tens of hotels contacted. Gig’s of excel data created and deleted. All in the name of one thing: Planning the most ultimate holiday.

You’re excited. You’ve been waiting weeks. You’ve even got yourself a new pair of swimming shorts. But then…

“Oh sorry dude, I can’t make it, something came up”

“That’s thiiiiis weekend?”

“Sorry, I’m going to have to take a rain check”

What a kick in the arse, eh? Yet, I’d bet we’ve all been there at some stage. And it’s god damned annoying.

The way I see it, these people fall into one of six categories:


Category 1: The “Something Came up”ers

This is the lowest severity offence; usually things that couldn’t be foreseen when the original plans were being made.

Life likes to throw curve balls at us from time to time, and plenty of people think that’s what makes it interesting (they are also known as crazy people). Work, family, medical – All fine reasons to not do something, so long as it’s done with some respect.

What do I mean? Well the bare minimum is letting you know that they wont be able to make it.

This category 1 offence can turn legit real quick if you’re left waiting on them and they just never show up, without any notice.

Everything above this minimum respect level is a benefit, and decent people will go beyond this level: Giving as much notice as possible, setting a ‘rain check’ time, apologizing and giving a full explanation.

These offences just happen, and you can quickly turn into the bad guy if you come down hard on someone for one or two cases of it.

Category 2: The “Too Polite To Say No”ers

Category 2 is quite a jump up in severity when compared to category 1, but it still has its excuses.

It’s easier to explain with a story:

You’re out with some friends, grabbing some food and a few quiet beers. Noting crazy, but it’s got you in the mood to do something with them the next day too.

You extend an invitation to the group, including that ‘friend of a friend’ you’ve never met before; they appear to be good fun. As far as I’m concerned, these people get a free pass to say Yes, even if they really want to say No, and here’s why…

They could have some social anxiety being in a large group of people who, for the most part, they don’t know.

They might like hanging with your group and want to give off a willing and open impression.

They might worry that your invite isn’t genuine and presume that you’re just being polite – just like them, inviting them even though you don’t really want them to come.

It can be tough being in a new group, and giving them the benefit of the doubt is always a better decision in my book.

If, on the other hand, the person who’s “too polite to say no” is a long time and close friend and they still don’t say what they really mean, well, that’s a bit of a sly move. One which should make you both question that friendship.

Both cases average out this category to position 2, even though offence is vastly different in severity.

Category 3: The “I Forgot”ers

This one I struggled with. There are a couple of different camps that exist when it comes to this category, all of which vastly change its offence level.

The truth is though that people do forget things. Our lives are busy and plans made in passing a long time ago can easily slip a person’s mind. And as the organizer, a part of your responsibility is to ensure everyone knows that the plans are happening and the details around them.

Here are some times when I feel it’s ok to let them off forgetting:

  • If they had been drinking when you told them
  • If they were sick when you told them
  • It was mentioned in passing during a conversation about another topic
  • You told them months before the event date.

All situations where the onus is on you to get those details out and confirm that everyone knows and has them clear in their mind.

Now, if you’ve done all that, or you told them yesterday about an event today, well then we’ve got a bit of a problem.

Either they haven’t got enough respect for you as their friend to make a note of it in whatever calendar system they use, to just keep it in their otherwise empty head, or maybe they just straight up don’t like you and wanted to cause hardship.

Again I think this category is slightly polarized – I feel like it should be higher but the lower severity offences of it are so understandable that it averages it out.

Category 4: The Buyers Remorse

Now we’re getting into the big leagues – the serious offences that should raise red flags when it comes to inviting these people to future events. Hell it should raise red flags about friendships.

Buyers remorse is usually something that happens after someone spends a relatively large sum of money when they were also considering some other options. Often they will continue to question their decision for months, with their mind instantly changing as soon as the purchase was finalized.

The same can happen with events – You invite them, and they are excited. Maybe so much so that they even help to plan. Then, as the date gets closer and closer, they slowly get quieter and quieter. One day you’ve realised they’ve dropped off the face of the earth.

Buyers Remorse.

If it’s a good friend, this is fine. As buddies you can talk it out, have that conversation, and they can ask you if it’s ok. Again, you’d be a bit of a martyr to say no, and now it’s more of a category 1 situation where they are asking if it’s ok; Respectful.

But usually, it’s bullshit. Because in most cases they are skipping the plans they made with you in favor of doing the exact same thing with other people – usually having some pints. They have putting you in a pecking order and rather than doing the adult thing and being happy you want to hang out with them, they just toss that friendship to the floor and smash it into the dirt.

Shit just got real.

Category 5: The Flakers

Flakiness is actually a subset of buyers remorse, but worse because the other plan they chose was to do nothing at all.

They didn’t give a shit that you wanted to hang out with them or that your friendship might be worth something, and decided that they’d rather stay at home and do what they do every other night of the week.

If you call someone out on it they usually come back with “ah, I don’t really like activity X anyway”, but that’s a lame excuse because they initially said yes. There were plenty of opportunities to voice that concern or even say no.

But they chose not too. They chose to just shit on your plans and watch winning streak while eating an oven cooked pizza instead.

Category 6: The Liers

This is the highest offence category level, but thankfully rare among friends.

It’s a case of people saying “Yes, I’d love to come”, without having any notion of attending at all, just to cause some hardship and stress.

When it does happen though, you’ve got yourself a doozy of a problem because it can only happen with people you call friends.

Now your problem isn’t so much the event, but what happened in your life that you are now associating with evil and snide people.


Truth time: I’ve been one of these people. We all have. Unless you’re some kind of saint who also has magical powers to control the world around them, life will have gotten in the way despite your best efforts.

But that’s ok. So long as you’re in one of the lower categories and don’t make an overly frequent habit of it, you’re fine.

But before we go our separate ways, you now equipped to asses everyone you’ve ever known before, there is one more thing to consider: Linked Categories.

Because links between these categories do exist, and failure to take this into account could have you looking like either a total pushover or a complete daemon.

Linked Category’s: The Positives That Look Negative

These category links have someone looking worse then they actually are, and so we’d better address them if we’re to avoid driving our current friends away.

Offence 2 and Offense 3: “Too Polite to Say No” And “I Forgot”

Let’s go back to our story above, the one mentioned in “too polite to say no” above where you met a new friend of a friend.

It’s not a far stretch to believe that this person actually fully intended on coming along, but just forgot. Meeting new groups of people brings a lot of new information, most of which will get forgotten.

Who’s to say that one bit of information isn’t the details of your event?

It’s kind of like when you hear someones name for the first time and instantly forget about it. It’s something that happens to everyone, something that has to be forgiven.

Offence 3 and Offense 1:  “I Forgot” And “Something Came Up”

“Something Came Up” events can fluctuate in severity. Maybe they just spilled some water on the floor, or maybe they were in a horrible accident that has rendered them without their left hand.

Totally different ‘somethings’, each requiring their own degrees of leniency.

I’d like to think that I’d be forgiven for forgetting to let someone know I couldn’t make it if I ended up stranded on a desert island after a plane crash, and you should too. A perfect example of a time when forgetting is A-Ok.

Linked Offence Conclusion: All good with me, Bud. Lets be friends.

Linked Category’s: The Negatives That Look Positive

These category links on the other hand are ones that have someone looking better then they actually are. They have you looking like a pushover, so we better be clear now to make sure we’re not getting taken advantage of.

Offence 1 and Offenses 2, 3, 4, and 5: “Something Came Up” and “Too Polite To Say No”, “I Forgot”, “Buyers Remorse”, and “Flakers”

This is a very dangerous one, all linked because “something came up” is used to cover up a dirty lie from a weed of a person.

It’s one that gets thrown around a lot – “Sorry I couldn’t make it, you know yourself. Something Came up” – and we usually accept it.

But it could be masking something sinister. It could be a rouse that’s covering a dirty liars path, someone who might just need to be culled from your life.

Extreme? Maybe. But I’m not wrong, and if you suspect that someone falls into this linked category a number of repeated times, well you’d best asses the situation rather than standing around and letting it happen.


Now that you’ve a grasp on all these categories, you’ve got two jobs to do:

The first is to use this information when planning an event. Make sure you do your due diligence as organizer and give (or remove) leeway from someones responsive as their category level warrants.

The second is to make sure that you don’t commit and of the higher category offenses. Because now people are going to be privy to your ways and soon you’ll have no other option but to flake at home on you own!

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