Why are some people chronically late?

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You know that person. They always show up late for parties – usually at the end. You call them to meet up somewhere and you already know from the outset that they will be at least half an hour to 45 minutes late. You dread when they offer to pick you up for something because you’re sure that they’ll make you late to wherever you all are going. Why can’t they be more responsible? Do they not own a watch? What in the world is going on? Well, it turns out there are several reasons why people don’t like to be punctual.

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They are trying to be over productive

For many of us, we plan to use the last five minutes before we go somewhere to make sure that we have everything we need – wallet, purse, phone, keys, etc – before we head out the door. That way, if there is something that needs to be searched for frantically (keys, it’s always keys) there is enough time to look for it and still walk out the door on time.

A chronically late person meanwhile may be trying to get as much done as possible in their day. Therefore, instead of preparing to leave, they are trying to write one more paragraph for a paper they have due or are trying to clean one more surface of their house or are trying to organize one last thing in their office.

They overestimate themselves

Chronically late people take flukes in timing and use that as the standard. If a chronically late person is coming to pick you up, and it takes them 15 minutes to travel to where you live when all the lights are green, they will assume that it will always take 15 minutes and plan accordingly.

They won’t take traffic or stopping at red lights or road conditions into account, and will consider all of THOSE things to be the fluke, as opposed to the one time when there wasn’t traffic and they hit all green lights.

They feel like they’re being nice

A person who is chronically late may not enjoy the feeling of being rushed and might not want to make you feel rushed as well. They might feel that by showing up late, they are doing you a favor, enabling you to get more things done (like giving you extra time to find those keys!), or just relax a bit before going off to wherever you all are going.

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They may come from a different culture

Different cultures look at time in different ways, and are therefore a lot more flexible and fluid about the definition of being “on time.” People from northern Europe for instance are very punctual, and tend to come to things quite early. These are the people who grew up in a culture saying that if they will be there at 9:03pm, they will do everything in their power to pull up to your driveway at 9:03pm, and will be upset with themselves if they are even a minute late.

Then there are the people whose family come from the Middle East, southeast Asia, or even Africa, where time is looked at differently. Time is more fluid in these cultures, giving these people a more easy going demeanor. There was no concept of minutes in these cultures, and clocks generally weren’t used – with sand timers and sundials being the primary way people kept time. In fact, while Europe was using clocks and clock towers by the mid 1500s, the Ottoman Empire which controlled much of the Middle East didn’t start using clocks until the early 1900s! So to someone from these cultures, being 15 minutes late is may still be considered “on time.”

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