Being the unreliable, flaky friend is cute for maybe ten seconds. But eventually, everyone has to learn how to be more reliable. It's a big step in the process of adulting, and is absolutely necessary when it comes to maintaining friendships and doing well at work.
I know it's something we all try to do, because deep down most people totally value reliability as a positive trait. No one wants to be late, or get in bad with their boss, or cancel their plans. And yet, sometimes flakiness happens, and it causes all sorts of problems.
As psychologist Dr. Kim Chronister says in an email to Bustle, "When a person is unreliable in a social situation, they cause their friends and peers to feel rejected and therefore hurt. In a professional setting, unreliable people cause their employers to feel as if they are putting them at risk financially and that they respect their own needs more than the organization's needs. When people feel rejected based on a person's tardiness or flakiness, they often develop disdain for that individual." Not good.
Of course, changing your tardy, unreliable ways is often easier said than done. It means shifting your focus to other people (the cornerstone of adulting, really). It means being 100 percent honest, even when it's super uncomfortable. And it means being able to say no. All scary stuff, I know. But it is still possible to become the most reliable, trustworthy person ever, whether it's at work, or just hanging out with your friends. Read on for more ways to do just that.
1. Try Not To Over-Promise
It can be tempting to say "yes" to everything in an effort to be agreeable, and nice, and thoughtful. But these good intentions often backfire when you take on too much, and then can't deliver. As Chronister says, "The next time you are asked to do something, weigh the pros and cons and take time before you respond." Sometimes saying "no" is the more thoughtful response.
2. Say "Yes" More Often Than Not
Yes, you're super busy, and therefore may take tip number one to the extreme. However, saying "no" to everything also makes you a pretty reliable — and unhelpful — person. As Trent Hamm said on Lifehacker.com, "When friends or professional associates ask for help, you need to be able to provide that help a significant amount of the time ... part of being reliable is that you do provide help on a regular basis." So really, it's all about finding that happy medium.
3. Apologize If You Can't Follow Through
The moment you realize you can't hang out, or finish the project on time, or make it to the meeting, say so. And then offer an apology. As Chrissy Scivicque noted on Forbes, "... don’t hide or make excuses or shift blame when things go wrong. Take responsibility. Own up to it. Make it right." Doing this in a timely fashion will help retain your reliability status.
4. Build Yourself Up With Positive Affirmations
Decide that from now on that you'll be a reliable person. "Tell yourself... 'I will finish what I start', 'I am a person that keeps promises,' 'I will do better in my relationship [and] in my career now that I am more reliable,' 'People respect me because I can be counted on'," Chronister says. Get those ideas floating around in your head, and you might just stick to them.
5. Don't Demand Credit
Reliability should just be a thing you do, not something that is special or deserving of praise. That's because people who demand credit for the things they've done often lose the goodwill that comes from the help they provided, according to Hamm. Your friends and coworkers are aware that you helped out, so no need to memorialize the day, brag about it on Facebook, or go fishing for compliments.
6. Get Someone Else's Opinion
If you think reliability isn't that important of a trait, then ask around for people's opinions. "Ask your friends or peers how they feel about unreliable people. Their answers may scare you. (Even better... ask a New Yorker how they feel about unreliable people for an even more eye-opening response)," Chronister says. I'm sure you'll find that nobody appreciates an unreliable person, so it's best to not be one of them.
7. Be Awesome & Over-Deliver
If you agree to take on a task, promise yourself you'll go above and beyond whenever possible. To do this, utilize the old "under promise, over deliver" technique. "Add 'padding' to your estimates. This will only impress people when you perform over and beyond. And it will provide you with some wiggle room should Murphy’s Law kick in and everything that can go wrong actually does," Scivicque said
8. Bow Out Of Plans Ahead Of Time
If you are on the fence about seeing a friend, or going out to dinner, say so sooner rather than later. Because nothing is worse than showing up to meet someone, only to have them bail via text five minutes before they should arrive. Don't be this person. Simply be honest and polite, and cancel plans well ahead of time. Or, show up when you said you would, whether you want to or not.
9. Hang Out With Other Reliable People
Be wary if all your friends are flaky beyond measure. Their bad habits will probably start rubbing off on you, and bubbling over into other areas of your life. As Hamm said, "When you associate with people that are reliable, it becomes more natural for you to be more reliable. People take on the traits of those they associate with the most." In short, don't be a flake.
10. Respect Everyone's Time
The biggest rule of reliability is having respect for other people's time. As Lee Colan said on Inc., "If you tell someone you can meet at a certain time, you have made a promise. Being on time shows others that you are a person of your word. When late, you are saying, 'My time is more valuable than your time.'"
11. Be As Truthful As Possible
If you're running late, say so. If you can't finish something at work, be honest about it. But you should also be honest when it comes to info that you spread. As Colan said, "Does everything you use to communicate tell the full truth? If not, you are a source of unreliable information." Don't let this be you. Avoid gossip, or stretching the truth, and people will come to know you as a pillar of reliability.
And that's a characteristic we should all want to adopt.
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