Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Keeping plans means being considerate of people's time
Q: I think I may be flaky. I cancel on my friends last-minute. I've always been this way, but in adulthood have tried to limit this behavior. I don't have bad intentions, and I respect other people's time, but I sometimes find that plans I made days ago might not suit me today. For example, I might be really tired, have had a bad day at work, feel sick or want to go home and play with my dog. How can I limit this behavior short of never making plans in advance again?
Carolyn: You can suck it up and go. The only well-mannered (read: unselfish) excuse for canceling established plans with someone is that you have to tend to something worse than what you had planned — you're sick, your dog is sick, your car breaks down, your basement floods, your mother needs to be bailed out of jail.
Feeling tired or sorry for yourself isn't a defensible excuse — except in the case of having been such a reliable and punctual and attentive friend for so long that you've earned the right to say, "You know what? I'm whupped — can I forgivably cancel on you tonight?"
And even then, you give your friend a chance to say something along the lines of, "Yes, of course" or "Er, normally I'd say yes, but if you bail on me tonight I'm stuck with an expensive ticket that I don't have time to resell."
Time is people's most treasured possession, and the behavior you describe suggests you think your time is more important than theirs.
You make plans, you keep plans. If you don't like keeping plans, then don't make them.
Anonymous: This follow-up is important to note: After you bail/cancel/change plans/flake on your friends, then it becomes your turn to make the next set of plans.
Carolyn: And, ah, show up for them. Thanks.
Meddle in the romantic life of friend only when necessary
Q: I have a friend who is in that phase of desperation where she seems, literally, ready to marry any guy with a pulse. As a happily married woman, is there anything I can say that won't seem smug or out-of-touch but might cause her to reconsider her lowered standards?
A: I've used this line before from The Big Chill. Remember when Meg was drawing concern for wanting an old college friend to impregnate her?: "Just be supportive and shut up."
Anyway, it's not for you to jump in when your friend appears to be in a state of mind to do something stupid. It is for you to say, "I'm worried — you aren't acting like yourself when you're with Joker," or whatever is applicable to the situation, when she is actually doing something specific that might put her on a harmful path.
In other words, save your meddling currency for when you're sure you need it. These circumstances don't appear to qualify.
Also, remember, even a "happily married woman" is just a couple of turns of fate away from an emotional abyss. Puts smugness right back in the bottle.