Tactfully Tardy – What To Do When Running Late

Apr 23 2014

by Erika Preval

During our matriculation at Spelman College, we’re taught that, “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. And to be late is unacceptable.” Though my mother provided the perfect example of “how” to always be punctual (I’ll share this later), this standard at Spelman helped me understand the importance of “why” you should always make every effort to arrive on time: thoughtfulness towards those awaiting you.

Since life is unpredictable, there will inevitably be occasions where you arrive later than anticipated to an arranged meeting. However, it’s the handling the gaffe with consideration of those left on hold during your absence that ensures there’s no damage to your relationship. Here are a few practices to help smooth things over a bit:

Make contact – At the moment you realize that you’re running late, make every attempt to notify the person(s) you’re meeting of your potential tardiness and expected time of arrival. Use the appropriate method – phone or text, depending on the person’s preference and meeting location. (Don’t call your friend who’s joining you for a movie to say you’ll be late, as they may be inside the theater and unable to pick up the call – text instead). This shows that you value their time and recognize that they’re waiting and frees them to occupy their time accordingly.

Shift gears – Upon arrival, quickly offer an apology and brief explanation of the cause of your tardiness. Be careful to not make the first moments of your meeting about a series of dreadful events that lead to your absence. Instead, focus on the person kept waiting, making certain they’re accommodated and view your apology as sincere.

One and done – Be sure that you don’t make a habit of showing up late to meetings with friends and associates. Chronic tardiness will cause people to doubt your word, and can send the message that you consider your time more valuable than others – a trait you’d surely not want to be associated with.

We’re all very busy, so do strive to be thoughtful when someone sets aside time to meet with you. Time is the one thing that we truly can’t get back but, with notice of your anticipated tardiness, those on the waiting end can surely make the best of the lag until you arrive!

See you (on time) at The Southern C Summit!


Photo courtesy: Houzz

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Erika Preval View More Blog Posts from this Author

Erika Preval is a Certified Etiquette Consultant in Atlanta, Georgia and contributing writer for The Southern Coterie and Southern Living. Through her company, Charm Etiquette, she conduct experiential events that ensure leadership and social skills in youth and young adults, as well as adult-only events known as Social Studies: Finishing School for Adults. With Charm, she's put a modern spin on manners that makes each event both fun and relevant for guests.

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