Why Are People Always Late For Appointments?

Some psychological keys of “late” people.

It seems incredible, but there are people who seem unable to get to places on time despite planning their schedules and having their eyes fixed constantly on the clock. It is problematic, especially when this delay, which is related to the time at which the trip to the meeting place has started, is joined by last-minute unforeseen events, or when there is not much trust with the people who wait.

Arriving late is usually a nuisance for both the person who is waiting and the person who is late, and yet it is very common to leave on time (or even at the time that they have stayed). How can it be explained that it is so hard for us to learn from mistakes and get out early? There are different reasons that can explain the existence of these “chronic latecomers”.

Possible reasons for being late (always, everywhere)

There must be some explanation why certain people are so prone to being late everywhere, while others display English punctuality. Could this difference have something to do with some psychological aspect? 

1. Being too narcissistic

People with a  narcissistic personality are prone to problems when it comes to putting themselves in the shoes of others. This implies, among other things, that they will not assume the fact that each time they are late they will cause annoyance to third parties and, in fact, they may find the feeling of being kept waiting pleasant. 

Ultimately, forcing yourself to be late to sites is one way of creating the illusion that you are important enough that everyone has to wait to enjoy your company. However, these cases are not very frequent.

2. Addiction to last minute racing

It may be difficult to understand, but the need to find shortcuts or methods to move fast and the  release of adrenaline associated with being late can be seen as something of a sport: you are late for some kind of strange pleasure. 

And as such, it may be addicting. Thus, it is understandable that some people take it as such, albeit in an unconscious way, and take the slightest appointment or meeting as an excuse to live a little adventure against the clock.

3. You don’t want to arrive early

This reason is the most sensible from a cost-benefit logic. There are many reasons why someone may not want to arrive even a minute before the agreed time, and none of these have to be the intention to cause problems for others.

  1. Waiting is unproductive. Arriving early can be perceived as a waste of time. It doesn’t give the feeling of serving a clear utility. Faced with the prospect of arriving too early and doing nothing for a while, many people may delay their departure precisely by doing things that are apparently productive, such as cleaning the house, reading a book, or even taking time to rest, something that is could do while waiting. Ironically, this drive toward productivity leading to chronic retardation would probably not be there if you didn’t have the perception of having to choose between that or spending some time unproductive at your meeting location.
  2. It is boring. Arriving ahead of time means spending a time of monotony and discomfort. Waiting for someone means being immobile for a few minutes, with nothing to do and without being able to go anywhere else. Just as it is known that the other person can get upset if they have to wait too long, the person who tends to go out late knows that they can also be harmed if they have to wait.
  3. Affects self-image. For some people, waiting is a small challenge in which we must appear interesting and offer a positive image of ourselves while being still because others have decided to do so. You can smoke, look at your smartphone, put calculated poses … A situation similar to the one that occurs when we go in the elevator with strangers.

Some psychological conclusions

In short, for these people arriving in advance is not something positive, but a possibility that must be avoided. Therefore, they rule out the possibility of leaving a few minutes earlier (either due to a conscious or unconscious decision), they only have the option of arriving just at the agreed time or later. And, since the “later” alternative consists of more moments than the first option, it is the more likely of the two possibilities. Result: late arrivals, always.

So now you know: if you think that any of these three reasons explains most of the cases in which you are late, the main thing is to recognize it and fight so that this stops being the case. Of course, do not leave it for tomorrow.

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