The Flaky Gene: Why Some People Are Born To Cancel Plans

by Dan Scotti

Everyone’s got that one friend who’s flakier than a warm, fluffy, homemade biscuit.

He’s the guy who agrees to play basketball, and backs out around game time because of a mysteriously “sprained ankle,” or she's the girl who RSVPs “yes” to the birthday dinner – only to call up 15 minutes before the reservation and announce she’s sick (for the third time this month).

Still, they’re your friends and, in this way, you want to believe their reasoning is valid. I mean, really, you do.

Yet, in back of your mind, you can’t shake the presumption that the only things weaker than their feeble joints and seemingly non-existent immune system are, well, their excuses.

Thus, you have a special label reserved for these types of people: “flakes.”

No matter how many second, or third, chances you give these types of people – they always seem to find a way to let you down.

Whether it be a “funeral,” or “babysitting duties,” or any other of the infinite excuses at their disposal... whenever it physically comes time to do something – they always seem to diverge from their once enthusiastic stances. They always flake.

And you know this. What you don’t know, on the other hand, is why. Do they secretly not like you? Are they secretly living double lives? You’re not sure, at least not entirely, but whatever the case – it’s super f*cking annoying.

Annoying? Sure. Malicious? Far from it. Chances are, if you’ve known this person for a long time, you know his or her intentions are never to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Perhaps he or she just has deeply-rooted commitment issues or, I don’t know, a bad memory or something.

Well, according to Carlin Flora of Psychology Today, there might be some psychological reasoning behind the flaking.

Brent Roberts, a psychology professor from University of Illinois Champagne who was quoted in Flora’s article, suggests the premise that flakes are lacking heavily in conscientiousness.

Defined, conscientiousness is the personality trait that is comprised of “equal parts industriousness, impulse control, organization, interpersonal responsibility, and conventionality.”

Roberts goes on to explain how conscientious people typically engage in better lifestyle choices and, subsequently, end up living longer; their being conscientious produces benefits across their academic, work-related and marital lives.

According to Roberts, however, our flaky friends do tend to get better with time.

Roberts supports the idea American society is structured in a way that responsibility is inevitable.

In other words, as we age into our 20s, flaky people should anticipate their own “impulse control” (or discipline over their irrational behaviors) to increase through middle age.

Until then, though, you might be forced to deal with these special friends. While certain science might hint at “conscientiousness” being the origin of the issue, I’ve noticed a few alternate reasons for people flaking, too:

They're "yes" people.

Many people are “yes" people. This doesn’t mean they’re bad people, it just means they have trouble telling people "no." Hence – in some weird, twisted, way – it sort of makes them more pious people.

Oh, you want to go fishing Friday night? Yeah, sure! You want to come with me to cooking class this Sunday? Errrr, it’s the Super Bowl, but yeah, sure!

See, when these people end up digressing from their initial interest, it’s not with any bad intentions. It’s not like “something better” came up and suddenly they look down upon you, and your plans, as inferior.

They probably just weren’t ever really interested in the first place – and just didn’t have the heart to tell you directly.

They smoke weed.

If your buddy is a bit of a pothead, well, that could very much be the driving force behind his or her flaky tendencies. Remember, weed smoking is a very difficult hobby to practice in addition to living a fully-functioning, responsible lifestyle.

In truth, I’m sure your friend actually did aim on attending his or her prior engagement with you – at the time he or she agreed to making plans.

Now that he or she has been couched for the past five hours – smoking wax and running through season six of "Dexter" with his woes – he or she simply can’t.

This is the way it’s been since he or she started smoking pot, your friend has gotten all lazy and boring

They just give no f*cks.

Another reason people are apt to back out of plans with great frequency, is due to a lack of f*cks given on their end. To them, it’s “not that big of a deal.”

Sure, they might’ve screwed up your dinner reservation or pick-up basketball game, alike.

It matters to them as much as speed limits matter to Justin Bieber. They know what they’re doing is kind of f*cked up, yet they don’t seem to care. And it keeps happening.

They have a super busy life.

Have you ever given some consideration to the fact that these people might actually have valid excuses for their flaking?

Maybe he or she can’t get dinner with you tonight because they have some legitimate reason otherwise. Maybe something came up.

You never truly know what’s going on in said flaker’s life, so it’s best to just bear with him or her.

This person could be having girlfriend problems or family troubles, who knows, maybe the president called and asked to get a cup of coffee and discuss overseas policies. You just don’t know.