The etiquette of graceful tardiness  

While likely none of us want to be late, it happens. Kids, pets, traffic, distractions and more can keep us all from being on schedule and/or where we would like to be when we would like to be there.

What to do?

There’s no need to panic, lie or start rationalizing internally, or to others, or to skip your commitment altogether.

There are some surefire approaches to sharing your tardiness with thoughtfulness, and grace, that will alleviate your angst and offer consideration for those waiting for/on you. 

1. Plan ahead for events, traffic and people stopping/halting your forward progress. While this may seem obvious, some of us are optimistic and truly believe we can “make it all happen,” when really, we will be rushing and even frenetic if/when we allow that. Using GPS, ahead of time, even when you know your route, can assist if you are driving. And parking in the back of your office building, to use a discreet exit, can also be useful if you are heading to an off-site meeting/event. The simplicity of planning ahead is not easy in that we often book ourselves 100%, so think about giving yourself the grace of a 90% booking each day, with a cushion for surprises.

2. Immediately upon realizing you are going to be late, message any/all who are involved in order to offer a reasonable approach to the delayed experience they will have. This is not an “On my way” text or “See you soon” message, as that tells people nothing. You are on your way from where? What is soon? These texts take the burden off you while creating uncertainty for the person waiting. Instead, share something like “Since GPS has me arriving at 9:03 a.m. for our 9 o’clock meeting, please forgive my tardiness and plan on my arrival in your office at approximately 9:07 a.m. Thank you.” This is concise, and direct, while being mindful of the other person. And, now that the person waiting is aware, they can use the time well versus simply sitting and wondering.

3. Be safe and smart en route to where you are going. If you have done the first two, then you are in the best position possible since you are not a time-traveling superhero. Your getting there one minute sooner is not the focus, safety and your attention to what matters are priority. Let your communication be your release of anything else that you cannot change now.

4. Upon arrival, take a deep breath and be present. When you greet the person, speak not of anything about the lateness of traffic or whatever delayed, or distracted you, and instead smile with a sincere “Thanks for waiting for me,” and move on. When you leave, resist saying “And, again, I am so sorry for being late” as that was already addressed and you don’t want to bring up a negative for a lasting impression.

We are humans and we are imperfect. we are engaging with others who are also not perfect. These unfortunate times of tardiness should be few and far in between, and when they do occur, they allow for us to demonstrate care, and concern, with effective communication before spending quality time where we are meant to be. ♦

Debbie Lundberg is the founder and chief executive officer of the Florida-based national firm, Presenting Powerfully, where she delivers keynotes, facilitation, teaming and coaching. As a 12-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant, Lundberg co-hosts The Business Of Life Master Class Podcast. Her book, Remote Work Rockstar, is a guide for working and leading virtually. 

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