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Ask Abbie: Reasons why some people are always late

Published 12:00pm Saturday, November 23, 2013

Question: Why are some people always late?  How can you handle it with a friend who is 10 to 20 minustes late for everything? What about the guy who comes 45 minutes late, missing the meeting or walking in at the last minute?  What’s up with that?

The lights dim and the sound system transitions from generic background music to a specific score. As the curtain pulls to the side, many people continue to shuffle about and make quite a bit of noise. After many previews, the long-anticipated feature presentation begins.  As usual, you happily ensure the seat beside you remains unoccupied until John arrives. Your friend is running late again.

The lights dim and the sound system transitions from generic background music to the microphone. As the projector comes into focus, many people continue to shuffle about and make quite a bit of noise. After many handshakes, the long-anticipated-yearly board meeting begins. As usual, you began to panic and will remain that way until Brian arrives. Your team-member and co-worker is running late again.

Why are some people, like John and Brian, always late? To answer this question, a close-up investigation of the connections within the human brain must be conducted. The brain has two major areas in which connections occur, the right side and the left side. Longstanding theory states that those whose strongest brain connections are more right-lateralized than left-lateralized tend to always be late. The following provides additional insight into this theorized relationship.

The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner and in sequence. It processes from part to whole.  It takes pieces, lines them up, arranges them in a logical order, and then draws conclusions. The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are, with reality. It is able to associate consequences with actions.

If you are a left-brained person, you are a list maker who enjoys making a master schedule and doing daily planning. You complete tasks in order and take pleasure in checking them off when they are accomplished. You will stop what you are doing in order to be on time because your schedule dictates. In addition, because you are able to associate a consequence with being late, you feel great need to ensure promptness.

The right side of the brain processes from whole to part, holistically. It starts with the answer. It sees the big picture first, not the details. It draws the conclusion without having arranged any pieces prior to doing so. The right side of the brain deals with things not as they really are but how they can be imagined to be. It is not able to associate consequences with actions.

If you are a right-brained person you are ready to rebel when asked to make a schedule. You may flit from one task to another yet get just as much done as someone who employs a more focused approach for addressing priorities. You get to appointments late because you are working on something else. In addition, because you are not able to associate a consequence with being late you feel little need to ensure promptness.

Once you identify John and Brian’s habit for tardiness as being a symptom of strong right-lateralized brain connections, you will be ready to develop a strategy for handling their often-inconvenient actions.

If the offender is not affecting you or those you care about personally, such as your friend John, keep your concern about his tardiness to yourself.

Realize you will not change him or the fact that his brain processes information differently than yours. Adjust your expectations and your approach toward your friendship accordingly.

If, however, the offender is affecting you or those you care about personally, such as your team-member and co-worker Brian, go to him and voice your concerns. Assess his willingness to work with you to find a plausible solution. Realize you will not change him or the fact that his brain processes information differently than yours. Adjust your expectations and your approach toward your working relationship accordingly.

After the ending credits roll and the parting hands shake, don’t expect John or Brian to meet you for lunch on time unless you take appropriate action to ensure their promptness.

I do not suggest, however, resorting to violence in order to accomplish this initiative. That approach will likely place you without opportunity to fulfill your need for promptness due the locked set of metal bars behind which you will be placed.

ABBIE LONG is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to askabbie@tidewaternews.com

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