The brutal but effective tricks that'll make your 'chronically late' friends show up on time.

I would like to begin with a sincere apology. I am so, so sorry.

You know your selfish, disorganised, chronically late friend who you secretly detest? Oh, yes, hi there. That would be me.

My issues with lateness seem to be interwoven into my DNA, from always losing a shoe just before heading out the door in Kindergarten, to missing the bus just about every day in high school.

Holly Wainwright, Jacqueline Lunn and I argue about the politics of lateness on the most recent episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.

Being late is highly unpleasant. No matter how angry you are at me for keeping you waiting, I can assure you I hate myself more.

In the words of Tim Urban; “I’m late because I’m in denial about how time works” – and not in a cute “Omg I’m just such an original free spirit that I don’t believe in time” way. I BELIEVE in time and I appreciate how important it is, I am just really, really bad at it.

"I'm so sorry I'm just running four hours late." Image via iStock.

So it was unsurprising when a friend, who I had kept waiting for 25 minutes on Saturday night, linked me to a Reddit thread this morning entitled "Life Pro Tip Request - This is a problem I'm sure everyone has . . . but how do you get your friends to start being on time?

I felt...almost like...he was trying to tell me something.

Since the request was published, it has attracted more than 1700 responses. It would appear that lateness really does piss everyone off.


Of all the advice, here are the five most useful.

Just eat without them.

"We had an uncle that would always show at least an hour late for family gatherings. One Thanksgiving, everyone was there except the uncle and his family, everything was ready on time, and we were waiting AGAIN and the turkey was drying in the oven," one user wrote.

"Finally we just said 'screw it' and ate. They were later fed the heated up food. They were also never late again."

In waiting for the last person to arrive before anyone eats, we are punishing the punctual and rewarding the late. That's messed up. If your family lunch is set to start at 2, eat at 2. Don't wait.

Don't wait for them to eat. Image via NBC.


I personally think this one sounds a little extreme, but hey - I'm not the one waiting.

One Redditor wrote, "I usually apply the tardy professor college rule: 15 minutes late = class canceled."

Another added "You are supposed to meet someone at six? It's 6:20, no phone call, and they're not there? Leave."

I would be so embarrassed if someone did this, and that's probably for the best, so I am in full support.

The obvious: lie to them about what time something starts.

Ah, yes. The lie tactic. Genius.

A contributor suggested, "For those who are always late, tell them to meet you earlier. They'll always be late, and you'll arrive just on time."

Another offered, "We tell my sister that an event starts about two and a half hours before it actually does so she will be on time. So if something starts at 2:30 we tell her it begins at 12:00.. and she'll show up between 2:30 - 2:45."

Even as a late person, I can appreciate that two and a half hours is really quite late.

Specify a minute rather than an hour.

Well this might be the cleverest thing I've ever read.


One particularly smart Redditor suggested "choosing less-common minute values for meeting times, eg 6:10 or 5:50 instead of 6:00."

They explained "I think often, friends add an 'ish' to the end of whatever time you agree upon, so while you plan on being there at 6, your friend is planning on 6-ish. Choosing uncommon minute values can have the effect of narrowing the ish effect. At least in my mind, 6-ish means something like 5:45-6:15, whereas 6:10-ish is the more narrow 6:05-6:15."

Someone give this person a Nobel Prize because DAMN that's smart.

Ask Bossy: No one came to my birthday. What's up with that? (Post continues below video.)

Stress how IMPORTANT the start time is.

I know these are beginning to sound like tips on how to deal with children, but late people DESERVE TO BE PATRONISED.

One user offered the tip, "When a time for meeting is important (e.g. Ride to the airport, event starting), communicate the reason why that time is important and your late friends will try harder to be on time, because there's a reason to do so. The easiest and best way is to say 'It is extremely important that you are here at this time' or 'If you aren't here at this time, these are the bad things that will happen', with the caveat that you are telling the truth, otherwise we just won't believe you. We subconsciously differentiate between situations where time is flexible and inflexible. It's selfish, but its a really hard habit to break. Unless the person is a total asshole, we always feel bad, and we really don't mean to be late."

Aaaaand I think I just found my soul mate on Reddit. Spot on. If a birthday starts at 4pm, I assume that just means arrive anytime after 4. HOWEVER, I am very rarely late to work. Because I do not want to lose my job. I'm disorganised and unreliable, but I'm not an idiot.

 Call them out on it.

This comes from my colleague who sits next to me;

"I had a good friend that was late every time we met.  Even when I started planning to be half an hour late she started showing up later than that. In the middle of a London winter, in the bitter cold, she kept me waiting outside for an hour. She came two hours late to my small dinner party for my birthday and was annoyed that we had ordered. I didn't say anything on all of these occasions and then when she was a few hours late one day to meet me at my house for lunch I completely lost it. I had cooked soup and she had eaten before coming over and that's why she was late. We weren't really friends after that. I ruined our friendship because I lost it - all the times she was late had suddenly got to me and I was completely unreasonable. I started telling her all the things I could get done in two hours rather than waiting..."


In her case, lateness led to the demise of their friendship.

For some, being called out on their behaviour can lead to change. Particularly if, like my colleague did, you explain why it's so rude/disrespectful/unacceptable.

Negative reinforcement: If you're late, it's your shout.

This tip is inspired by basic psychology. A contributor wrote, "My friends and I were sick of a few people always delaying us for everything, so we decided if we invite you out with the group, and you're late, you're buying that night."

I can confirm this strategy absolutely works. My friend threatened me with this ultimatum one night, deciding that if I was even a minute late I'd pay for his movie ticket. And as everyone knows, that's basically one million dollars.

I was on time.

On behalf of late people everywhere, I really am sorry. I'm sorry you have to deal with us and our ineptitude. I'm sorry you even need to think about strategies that will improve our behaviour. How embarrassing.

If all else fails, you can always do what my brother did just last weekend, when I turned up 45 minutes late to my parents place.

Read out the dictionary definition of time, and ensure the guilty party repeats after you.

"The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole..."

"The continued progress of existence as affecting people and things..."

What are your strategies for making late people turn up on time?

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here. 

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