I have a small group of friends, consisting of three people (names changed obviously): Leon (he's 20, know him for about 6 years or so), Andi (19, know him for roughly a year) and Chris (18, also know him for roughly a year). I myself am 21.

We get along very well and have a lot of fun when we're together and going out. But what bugs me about all 3 of my friends is that they are very unreliable. They might even call one another out for being unreliable but can't seem to understand, that, they themselves, are as unreliable as the others.

Example: Often I have to plan things to do or else we end up doing the same stuff over and over again every weekend. When asking them what they are up to at the weekend and presenting them what we could do, 9/10 times they respond something along the lines of "Eh I don't know man I have to look. I'll catch up to you later". Thing is, they rarely reach back to me and if I really want to hang out with them, I have to ask again. We don't have a group chat anymore because when I was asking them about their weekend plans in the group chats I'd never get a response.

So now let's say I reach back to Leon and ask again. Then he'll most certainly will make a decision and also ask what the others are up to. When I then tell Leon they don't know yet and haven't responded, he'll say something like "Oh they are so unreliable it's always the same" although he is acting in exactly the same way 9/10 times. Same scenario can be applied when I reach back to either Andi or Chris.

It's not that they don't want to hang out with me at all (I think), because we always have a lot of fun. And when we're out we also talk about stuff we could do in the future. It's rather that they don't want to plan anything I guess.

How can I, politely yet effectively, communicate to each of them that I need them to become more reliable?

  • Hey, I'm a bit confused, what do you wish to achieve by telling them that?
    – Ael
    Nov 17, 2018 at 12:21
  • @Noon I want them atleast to realise they act unreliable. If possible this might lead to them trying to act more reliable in the future. Since they each see that the others act unreliable but fail to realise they do as well, maybe by telling them they will realise.
    – Suimon
    Nov 17, 2018 at 13:05
  • 1
    And what makes you feel that simply telling them: "I find you as unreliable as the others" won't be a good solution?
    – Ael
    Nov 17, 2018 at 13:10
  • As your question is, I'm not sure you will have a lot of answers. You might want to change it to: "How can I ask my friends to be more reliable?"
    – Ael
    Nov 17, 2018 at 13:23
  • To maybe rephrase the core of Noon's question: what impoliteness are you trying to avoid? There are different types of impoliteness (words used, implications made, the nature of your request).
    – Flater
    Nov 19, 2018 at 13:04

3 Answers 3


From what I understand:

  1. They are all unreliable in communication to each other
  2. You would like to do something different with them
  3. You don't want to break up the group by being mad at them, and you enjoy their company

I would wait until the next time you are all together, and then ask them to sit down. Suggest to them that you would like for them to listen because this is important to you. This will make it so they understand they are not obligated to listen to you. This also emphasizes that what you have to say is important, and they have the choice to listen or not. Make your tone of voice light, but sincere.

Next, I suggest that you explain several things to them:

  1. Tell them how you feel about being unable to make plans in an efficient manner, using "I feel..." statements. Most importantly, after you express that, listen to their explanations of why they are behaving this way. You don't necessarily have to believe in these explanations, but keep your mouth shut until they are done. This shows that you are willing to be flexible and want to be friends with them, and understand where they're coming from if they have any other difficulties in life.

Using "I feel..." statements to explain that you feel frustrated when you try to plan something and they don't communicate to you will help them understand that you don't feel great when you try to make plans with them. Ask them to make up their mind in a reasonable amount of time, (ex. one day to one week) about whether they have other plans they want to set up themselves. Using "I feel..." statements will define your stance on what you feel and why. This will set up the situation so that they don't feel blamed, but that they understand that the ball is in their court to now either ignore it and continue as usual or make steps towards making communication with each other easier and smoother.

  1. Finally, offer solutions. Talk about what has worked in the past and what has not worked (the group chat) Ask them why it hasn't worked, and if there's anything to do to make it better. This is the "action phase" of the plan, whatever you decide with them in this part has to be followed up on and carried through if the reliability will be kept up.

As a response to one of your concerns: If they say "I have to look, I'll catch up to you later", ask them what day and time you should expect to hear from them, and if you don't hear from them you'll remind them again one more time about the plans, but after that if they say the same thing, then no more reminders. You have better things to do than be a parent to any of the three people.

This will exhibit to your friends that while you don't mind waiting to hear from them, there is a limit to your patience.

If this works... you will find yourself in the company of great, reliable friends. They might trip up again, but remind them that you all depend on each other to have a good time.

If this does not work... you may have to do this again, but with more gravity (seriousness) that if you cannot depend on them to follow up on their plans within a reasonable set amount of time, you can't make plans with them. You can express that you would rather spend your time doing something productive instead of waiting around. I would not do this unless they are really being

  • There are some really good elements to this answer, but also a few things which are prone to misinterpretation or wrong implications. (1) "and then ask them to sit down, and behave seriously" Asking someone to "behave seriously", when phrased like that, can come across as arrogant and/or patronizing. (2) "Tell them about multiple detailed accounts" I would suggest for OP to address problems they faced rather than point out bad behavior ("being unreliable") - the latter can come across as combative or accusatory.
    – Flater
    Nov 19, 2018 at 13:09
  • @Noon and flater see edits. Hope they clarify more
    – ElizB
    Nov 19, 2018 at 15:31

TL;DR for what has ended up as a lengthy answer:

  • No matter what I say, your opinion is your own and you can act on how you feel. I'm mostly trying to reframe your observations to a more neutral standpoint.
  • From your description it seems like your friends are being genuinely themselves, and are not malicious nor particularly targeting you. Their behavior seems perfectly fitting with their age group, where social occasions can be considerably more casual and unplanned than you are expecting them to be.
  • How can you know for certain that their standard for reliability is too low, as opposed to your standard for reliability being too high? (I'm not asking for an objective answer here - I'm trying to get you to see that standards are arbitrary and subjective lines we draw).
  • Asking others to change should not be the preferred solution.
  • There are plenty of ways to work around each other's personalities as opposed to forcing each other to change.
  • If you can't deal with them being unreliable, you don't have to. But it may lead to ending the friendship instead of them actually changing themselves on your request.

How can I, politely yet effectively, communicate to each of them that I need them to become more reliable?

While I understand how this affects you, I suggest you take a step back here. It is not up to you to need your friends to behave in a way that is natural to them.

"Oh they are so unreliable it's always the same" although he is acting in exactly the same way 9/10 times

You're all young adults, and it's often said that the twenties are when you start discovering who you truly are, it's the first period in your where you're finding your own way without your parents' guiding hand.

Lack of self-awareness is part of that. It's easier to identify faults in others (when they negatively impact you) compared to seeing fault in yourself. Depending on the person, even when your flaws are pointed out you way still be oblivious to them.

When I was in my early twenties, I can't remember many people my age who planned things far in advance. Most social occasions were decided/planned within an hour of them happening.
It's perfectly possible that your friends are not capable/interested in making long term plans as they play things by ear.

As a general rule, you can talk to your friends about a problem you're having with their behavior, and ask if they can consider how their actions respond to you. For example, you can ask them not to make jokes about a particular topic because it's just not funny to you.

However, I do feel that this particular instance is very close to judging your friends for who they innately are (regardless of whether that will change in the future), rather than trying to address something they're doing. The fact that all three friends show the same trait suggest to me that you are the outlier in this group, not them.

While I am intentionally twisting your words here, it's actually not that hard to rephrase your questions as "how do I get my friends to be better people, like I am?" And that is the core issue: your question implies that your way is better.

So I want to take a step back here and address the difference in personality between you and your friends, without assuming that one is better (or more right) than the other.

There is a difference in personality between you and your friends. Based on your description, you are the only one who experiences this as a problem rather than an observable fact that warrants no further action. There are a few outcomes here:

1 - You accept it and deal with it.

Your friends are not being malicious, nor reckless. This is simply the way they are, and the way they interact as friends. You accept that your friends are unreliable and thus never truly rely on them, but you don't require them to change and simply avoid situations where their unreliability would negatively impact you.

2 - You ask your friends to change.

While this is a viable option, it should not be the go-to option. You must first consider how justified your request is. How can you know for certain that their standard for reliability is too low, as opposed to your standard for reliability being too high?

Even if so, if you're going to ask them to treat you differently, are you willing to endure the consequences of being treated differently? This can often lead to resentment, a quid pro quo assumption that you also change your behavior, or quietly being kept out of the loop on some things. While you may be okay with that - you might come to regret that as well.

At the very least, if you do talk to them, present it as an incompatibility rather than their misbehavior. Address the problem ("I relied on you to drive me to the shop because I need groceries") as opposed to the people ("You said you'd drive me to the shop and you didn't").
Be open to the possibility that even when they are willing to change, they may be unable to change. And that should not be counted against them, especially if they tried to accommodate your request.

3 - You don't accept it.

You can't handle unreliable people and thus no longer hang out with them.

On a personal note, one friend in our group (we have been friends for 15+ years) is still notoriously unreliably well into his thirties. Makes plans but doesn't follow through, cancels just before an event, no-shows without cancelling, doesn't respond to calls/texts, forgets to call you back, makes last-minute decisison to appear at social events, ...
We all know that this is just who he is, he doesn't mean anything by it and it's not targeted at certain people. Even if we ask him to be more reliable, he would never be able to. Not because he doesn't want to, but because this ties into a much larger emotional instability that we as his friends cannot approach nor fix.

And instead of cutting out someone who is still a good friend, we have simply adapted our expectations of him. We often joke that you never make plans with Tom (name changed), but rather that his appearance at social events is a forecast: the more people hear about it from him directly, the more chance there is of him actually appearing. In reality he appears <25% of times when he says he'll come by.

But we don't get upset because we all know that this is the case. We never make plans that rely on his appearance - and if we do, we explicitly stress the necessity to him. From his side, he also makes considerations: if he decides to join a social occasion last minute, he brings his own food/drink.
Two years ago, he said he'd go to a festival with us. Tickets were €200+ each, which I fronted. And he was a no-show. But he paid me for the ticket anyway, so I don't harbor any resentment about it. We knew that it was a possibility from the start.

There are plenty of ways to work around each other's personalities as opposed to forcing each other to change.


You might find this hard to swallow, but if you are part of a group of 4 and you feel that the other 3 are "unreliable", you are kind of the odd one out. Okay, so the others comment on unreliability too, but you are the one that finds that hard to deal with. That doesn't mean you are wrong, and it doesn't mean that they couldn't be more reliable either. But you may have to accept that the way you feel stems from your own personality as much as it does from the way they act. Some people don't cope as well with uncertainty and indecision for a variety of reasons, and maybe you are just one of them.

Also, although you are all a similar age, notably, you are the oldest. If you have started to feel this way more recently that could be significant - perhaps they are a year or two behind you in the maturity stakes. This is another reason to maybe cut them some slack. Some people outgrow certain friendships or peer groups, and it may be that in time you find other friends who are more like-minded and don't make you feel this way. But don't be quick to give up on good friends just because they are a bit flaky when it comes to arrangements.

Rather than accuse them of being "unreliable", or make them feel that you are annoyed with them, you would probably have more success if your request is for some consideration of how their lack of response or indecision makes you feel. Along with this, make some acknowledgement that this how you are, and that you are also trying not to let it get to you as much. That way you are "meeting in the middle" somewhat.

Wait until you are all together and able to have a reasonable conversation. Try to keep it light, and don't come across as if you are annoyed or "having it out" with them. What you are about to do is open up to them about how you feel.

Perhaps say:

Guys, I've been feeling down about something, I just want to talk to you about it. Perhaps it is just the way I am, but I really get frustrated when I try to arrange stuff in advance and I don't get a response. Is there a reason that you don't reply or commit to stuff when I ask? I'm just trying to understand so I can deal with it better.

Listen to what they say. When it is your turn to speak again, say what your hopes or expectations are in the form of a reasonable request. Perhaps something like:

Personally, I feel happier and more relaxed when I know in advance what we are doing. I don't like to leave things to the last minute. Could I ask that you be more direct with me in future? If you don't want to do something, just tell me straight. I can handle that better than not getting a reply.

I think it is fair to say that some people do not like to commit to "casual" social arrangements too early in advance for fear that something better might come up. While I personally don't agree with that attitude (perhaps because I'm a bit like yourself, I hate it when people don't reply or won't commit to invitations) when I think about it rationally, I can sort of understand it. It would be worse if friends did not stick to their word, or if they were willing to ditch an arrangement with you for something better. If people act this way because they don't want to go back on their word, that is admirable at least.

If they are good friends and care about you then I would hope they will be willing to make at least some effort to consider your feelings a bit more. But if you are willing to accept that it could be your perception that is wrong, or that you need to make some adjustments in how you deal with them, this could also lead to you understanding yourself a bit better, and that could help you not only in this peer group but in others in the future too.

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