Are you a serial planner? The person who has her diary full to the brim with plans, after-work drinks and meet-ups? If so, you will know the true euphoria that comes when, midweek, some of these plans are suddenly cancelled. Sure, you’ll feel the pangs of guilt, but these will quickly be brushed aside with the cries of “Freedom!” going through your head.
But why does it feel so good when anticipated plans suddenly go by the waste side? According to Andrea Bonior, PhD, LCP, author of The Friendship Fix, the feelings are linked to that of rebellion; you feel in control, in charge and that’s why you get the rush of happy feelings alongside that. “You’re reasserting control, and that’s a sign that you got roped into the plans in the first place,” Dr Bonior explained. “It’s like, You made me say yes, but I wasn’t allowed to say no, so now I’m asserting control.”
It makes sense, but the obvious downside to this is that constant flaking on your friends is that you become the “unreliable” friend in the group. “When you say yes to plans you know you’re going to flake on, it leads to the expectation of flaking, and you become the “unreliable” friend, Bonior added. “Some of it is social anxiety; you have the best intentions, then the party approaches and suddenly and don’t want to go.”
But psychologists have pointed out that the short-lived rush we get from cancelling on plans is nothing compared to the long-term benefits of keeping them – because we all need reliable friends – and also that this type of scatty behaviour means that some of us are lacking in conscientiousness (a fundamental personality trait that is “equal parts industriousness, impulse control, organisation, interpersonal responsibility, and conventionality”), according to Psychology Today. And this is worth nothing because conscientious people typically engage in better lifestyle choices and, as a result, end up living longer.
If it regularly feels good to cancel plans, those plans probably shouldn’t have been made in the first place – what’s the point in making plans if you know you won’t keep them? But at least we now know we’re not the only ones who cancel at the last minute and feel gleeful about it.