Being late would be so much easier in places like New York, Chicago, or LA. We could blame the cab driver, reference the enormous distance from our starting point (Bed-Stuy!), curse the traffic on the 405 and get off easy. But no, we live in Charleston, where we all have cars and everyone knows where everything is and yet somehow we’re all about 15 minutes behind each other.
When it comes to being late, I’m a frequent offender. I’m also frequently offended, drumming my fingers on a tabletop and wondering how in God’s name anyone could ever be so careless as to leave me waiting. THE GALL. My righteous indignation lasts right up to my next meeting, whereupon I arrive late, contrite, and suddenly in a very forgiving mood.
If you are going to be late – and we know that you are – at least do it like a professional.
Don’t make excuses. Apologize quickly but sincerely and move on. Blaming traffic or weather is dangerous in Charleston—for all you know, they might have come over the bridge right before you did and everyone can see there isn’t really a hurricane ravaging James Island. Births, deaths, alien abductions and other historic occurrences only beg uncomfortable questions. And please don’t even think about sharing the truth, which probably involves the words “alarm clock,” “delicious donut,” or “Facebook.”
Never, ever, run. Resist the urge to haul ass from your parking spot to the meeting. You’ll look like an idiot, sweating in formal attire is a bad thing and shortness of breath will make you sound ridiculous once you get there. Even if you run, you’ll still be late only now you’ll look and smell unappealing.
Stop the bleeding. As the lateness piles up over a series of appointments, cancel something and give yourself the chance to reset. The domino effect can be disastrous – 10 minutes late to the 9am and you may be 45 behind by lunch. And 45 minutes late is not late, it’s called “did not show up.”
Be interesting immediately. Small talk and nervous banter only feels like more wasted time to the offended party. Learn from rock stars who take their time getting to the stage and go straight into your set – ideally the crowd-pleasing stuff that everyone can sing along to.
Be prepared to forgive as thou hast been forgiven. Once established in a meeting, latecomers will often forget their own lateness and cast a little judgment on anyone outside the boundaries of best business behavior. Be warned: everyone who waited remembers that you were late and will now add hypocrisy to the list of things they wish were different about you.
Cover photo: Redbook