Years ago I worked with a woman I’ll call Janet. She often arrived late, full of apologies and excuses. Her car wouldn’t start, the dog got away, her kids missed the bus.
We all sympathized at first, but when the behavior persisted and the excuses came round again, we just looked away.
Still, I enjoyed Janet’s company and occasionally we got together outside of work—where it was the same story. I’d be waiting at the restaurant for a half hour before she rushed in, breathless and explaining. She ran into a friend, she had to answer a call.
Digging a notebook out of her purse, she would say, “Please give me some ideas on how to get organized.” I offered suggestions, but nothing changed and I finally realized the larger truth.
Some people like being overwhelmed. It makes them feel important or feel energized. Whatever the reason, they seem to require chaos and if it’s missing, they work hard to create it. Once I saw this, I could step away from the drama.
I could also acknowledge that my need for order was probably as annoying as their need for mayhem. What I wanted most was to find some middle ground—and meet there, roughly on time.