Telling Tales: Being Stood-Up is Not Always a Bad Thing

Let's face it. No one likes to be stood-up, or kept waiting.

  • The other week, a business associate showed up 45 minutes late for a breakfast meeting. Her excuse: she was late dropping off her kids at school.
  • Several months ago, a potential client stood me up entirely. His excuse, 15 hours later: "My day just got out of hand."
  • Last week, another potential client said he'd "call me back in 10 minutes" (that was three days ago).

All three, I learned, are chronic late-arrivers.

This type of behavior used to tick me off. Stubbornly I'd abandon potential business relationships based on this type of behavior. After all, they are all rude...yes? Why should I do business with these people?

As a chronic on-timer, It took me a while to understand why so many people are chronically late.

What I learned was that being late rarely has anything to do with "traffic being horrible," or "being caught on a call."  They're not busier than I, they aren't more scatter-brained than I. They're simply wanting (most of the time subconsciously) to have an upper-hand in our relationship.

You see, the underlying psychology behind showing up late for a meet-up is tied to control. Humans (at least American humans) who like to be in control of a situation--or to have the upper-hand, typically like to arrive late, make an entrance, and take control of the situation. They're the Alpha Dogs.

I was raised to be chronically on time, as a way to demonstrate respect. And, as someone who runs a consulting business that is in-service to my clients and customers, it was a good lesson to learn.

In my business I meet with a lot of people each week--I suppose an average week would call for 20-some-odd meet-ups. I would say that I'm on-time, or early, 99.9% of the time. As for those who I meet with, I'd say there's a 50/50 chance they'll be late. And, in a given week, perhaps 1 and 20 meet-ups results in being stood-up entirely.

I used to rebel against this type of behavior.

"These people are wasting my time."

"They have no respect for me."

"Who do they think they are!"

But then I noticed a remarkable statistic. These Alpha Dog clients who showed up late, or stood me up at our first meeting were no more likely to be good, profitable clients for my business. They were no less business intelligent, and had no fewer creative ideas than those who were on time. In fact, their Alpha Dog genes probably made them better CEO's and department chiefs.

So now, I come prepared for every meeting, with my iPhone or MacBook, or at least a newspaper or notepad, and await the grand (and often late) arrival of the Alpha Dogs.

Woof. Woof!

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