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Why being understanding to people who can't keep appointments is insulting to them


I've always prided myself on being understanding with people who couldn't keep appointments. Generally, they have been wonderful, creative, fun people for whom I've always "cut some slack". You know the type of person - they have no real concept of time, don't remember what day it is, let things just kind'a "slip their mind". People who are always day-dreaming, people whose thoughts are always at a higher plane. You know, flakes.

People who can't keep appointments are like anyone else who forgets their promises. Technically, it's called "blowing someone off" when you promise to be somewhere and don't show up, for no apparent reason. My first experience with this type of behavior was when I was a kid in Minneapolis, and I would arrange with friend to play tennis.

I learned to tell time, and wore a watch, early in life. And I really, really, liked to play tennis. So when I would set up a tennis date, I would look forward to it. I would imagine how much fun it would be to being playing tennis. I would go find my racquet, test the strings, and swing it around in anticipation. I often showed up at the courts very early. And then I would be forgotten, and just sit there. I can remember this happening to me over and over. I even remember some big kids who took pity on me, as they could see that my tennis partner wasn't going to show up, and they asked if I wanted to hit a few. And if I followed up with my friend who had blown me off, it was always "What? Oh, I must have forgot! Soooorrry..."

As an adult, I learned to recognize these people from a distance, and I stayed well away. I found people I could count on, and the flakey ones went into a category of "if nothing else" I would hang around with them. As a Graphic Designer, I always worked under time pressure. I knew what day it was, what time it was. I practiced time management all of the time, and I really never expected much from other people. And then I started teaching, and it all came back into focus.

I accommodated the students who showed up late, or unprepared, or not at all. I had a sign-in sheet so someone could stumble into class whenever they showed up. I had policies that allowed people to do make-up work for stuff they had missed. But ultimately I taught to the people who were there. The ones who blew off the classes, or were always late, I smiled at and offered encouragement. But really, they were "the little ones" - the ones who never had any incentive to make it to appointments, to keep their promises, to follow up.

One of the things I remember hearing over and over was someone showing appreciation for my "being patient with them". And I still am patient with people who need it. I'm sorry that they're that way, and I know that my patience indicates a lowering of expectations, which if you think about it, is insulting.