Making and keeping plans is one of the biggest challenges for adult friendships. Of course, we mean well when we make them, but life tends to get in the way. Sometimes we even get in our own way by making plans we know we can’t keep or being poorly organized. There are a million excuses, most of them completely valid. Sometimes we’re overbooked, overworked, and overtired. We have different priorities than our friends. There are many reasons why making plans isn’t as simple as it used to be. Here are our top 5 challenges, and how to overcome them.
1. You’re an Introvert, but He/She’s an Extrovert (Or Vice Versa)
There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, and they’re definitely having their moment- after so many years of people pleasing and keeping up with images, a large number of people (and countless hashtags) are finally starting to advocate for self-care and doing what’s right for you, even if it means cancelling plans to chill with Netflix alone. I can admit to being an introvert, and I can’t count how many times I’ve turned down plans just to stay up all night anyway- alone. (Well, not exactly alone if you count books and my laptop as company, which I do). Anyway, when it comes to making plans, the problem usually isn’t introversion or extroversion. It’s the miscommunication that sometimes occurs between introverts and extroverts.
For true extroverts, spending time with others or in large crowds is generally energizing, not draining. So if you’re an introvert, your extroverted friends may not understand that you only enjoy big concerts or nights out dancing once in a while- and then you need to recharge for several weeks before you feel fully like yourself again. Sometimes introverts really do need to spend large amounts of time alone, attuned to their own natural rhythms and functioning as much in harmony with them as possible. But other times, your introverted friends really do want to spend time with you. It’s just likely they’d rather see you at a coffee shop and share some intimate, one-on-one conversation than get lost in a big crowd. That’s not to suggest there aren’t times when introverts are in a big party mood- or that extroverts don’t enjoy and even need some serious down time. The point is this: In a friendship made up of one introvert and one extrovert, it’s very likely that both people value the friendship, and want to spend time with each other. It could be the location that’s the problem.
It could also be that more often than none, extroverted friends need and desire more time with people than introverts do. In either case, the solution usually lies in communication and compromise. If you’re an introvert who knows you’ve been bailing more than usual on your bestie, make a concerted effort to let your friend know that it’s not about her- it’s about you and your needs at the moment for whatever reason. You don’t have to justify your reasons, but it might bring the two of you closer to talk about them. Help your friend understand your current state of mind, and he or she may not even take it personally anymore. And your good friends will know that you’ll be back on the social scene (or on the phone or on their couch) when you’re ready. Extroverts, let your introverted friends know how you feel. If they don’t know you feel frozen out or are seriously missing them, they won’t be able address the issue.
When it comes to where you hang out, both people might need to do a little compromising at times. If you prefer nights and your best friend likes to go out more often than you do, indulge her in a party or a concert now and then.
What not to do? Introverts, don’t agree to plans that you know you won’t (or really, really don’t want to) follow through with. We understand you have good intentions. We know your first instinct might be to make your friends happy, and that’s understandable. But take it from someone who knows- they won’t be happy if you cancel at the last minutes. Oh, and when you cancel, offer your extroverted friends a rain date that you keep.
2. Life Gets in the Way
As people leave college and enter their adult lives, it happens slowly but surely: You no longer share similar routines and intimate space with your friends. This doesn’t mean we have to go separate ways, but it does mean that life often takes us in different directions- leading us into different careers, lifestyles, relationships, etc. In other words, friends who once shared a life now have their own. Many friendships to get lost in these inevitable changes, but the real ones- the ones you truly value and can’t imagine life without- don’t have to go by the wayside. It might sound odd to say that sometimes keeping friendships alive comes down to something as simple as making plans- and keeping them. But it does take an extra effort to set aside time for friendships as life moves forward.
3. It’s Easy to Make Plans- and Just as Easy to Cancel Them
Ah, technology. Whereas making group plans used to involve hours of phone calls and coordination, it’s now as fast and easy as a group text. Considering how busy life is, the ability to get all your friends making plans at once from miles away is a huge advantage. That said, technology makes it just as easy to cancel plans. Texting is great because we can do it throughout the day, whereas phone conversations tend to be longer and more involved, taking up a lot more time. But be honest- how many times have you canceled plans via text because it’s easier (and less uncomfortable) than calling?
Maybe you feel really bad about cancelling, and hearing your friends’ disappointment in their voices makes it harder. Maybe you’re going through a breakup, facing career challenges, or just aren’t in a good emotional space right now. You want to open up to your friends- yet you really, well, don’t want to. (We’ve all been there). Dodging a call and sending a text works out well...until you realize that your friendships are becoming more distant, and you miss them.
A piece of advice? Make the call, and try to make it in advance. Friends are less likely to feel frustrated or hurt if you had the consideration to give them a week in advance to cross off your spot in a reservation, sell those concert tickets to someone else, etc. If it was a one-on-one friend date, your fair notice might mean they have time to make other plans. Maybe they have children and would like the chance to cancel the babysitter and save the money for a night when they really need one. Even if your cancelling is of no external inconvenience to your friend, it makes people feel more respected and cared for when you cancel plans in advance.
4. Everything is So Damn Expensive!
We hear you. Between education, rent or mortgage payments, car payments, credit cards, and everything else, the cost of living has gone up in our generation. Most of us go through times when we cancel plans because we can’t afford them, and that’s okay. It’s not only okay, it’s reality for most of us.
Luckily, there’s a creative solution to this one. Plenty of plans you can make with friends are cheap or even free. You can invite friends over for a movie marathon. You could host an at-home “spa day” with face peels and hair masks or hot oil treatments (you can find some pretty high-quality ones at drug stores). Giving each other manicures and pedicures can be fun and cheap. Then follow up healthy fruit and green smoothies with a splash of champagne. Now that it’s summer, why not pack a homemade picnic lunch and (or brunch), and head to the park with friends? You can do some people watching (or people dodging), depending on your preference. Either way, a picnic in the park is a great way to spend quality time with friends without breaking the bank. If your city holds plays or concerts in the park during the summer, all the better. Go hiking or even stroll through the park. Being outdoors and reconnecting with nature can clear your mind and be good for the soul, especially when you do it with friends you love.
5. You Use Social Media to Stay Connected with Friends, but Your Newsfeed Is Too Chaotic
Life is busy, and the fact is that many of us often feel we have too much on our plates. Maybe you need to work a lot to make ends meet or have a career or college major that demands a lot of your energy. Maybe you’ve got kids and are trying to strike that precarious balance home, work, and relationships. Whatever the case, when we spread our energy too thin, we lose balance in our lives, and friendships often go by the wayside. This can be especially upsetting when our close friendships are a source of strength, companionship, and fun- but we’re missing out of them and functioning on autopilot just to keep life running smoothly.
Whatever the reason, many of us rely on social media to keep in touch with friends we don’t get to see as often as we’d like. Social media allows us to stay connected to friends and family who don’t live close or whom we’re too busy to hang out with all the time anymore. It also facilitates a lot of the plans we make. There are social media apps where we can find and connect with people who share our interests, and post and attend events. Of course, Facebook has pages for events as well.
If you’re rolling your eyes as you read this, we get it. Facebook newsfeeds have become totally overcrowded and chaotic. Their algorithms make it so that when you sign in, it’s anyone’s guess what you’ll see on your feed. Will it be a really interesting event posted by a friend? Will it be your high school history teacher spouting conspiracy theories? Is that girl you met once in college posting nine times per day about her impending divorce, of which Facebook apparently knows more about than her husband? Is your mom’s best friend accidentally uploading the same photo of her garden over and over again? Memes that feature a dubious Kermit the Frog- or even worse, that infamous gorilla juggling an overload of oranges alongside text that reads, “When there’s free snacks in the breakroom at work”? You get the point.
Unless you’re directly invited to an event, there are hundreds happening in your area that might not make it onto your newsfeed. We’ve been working on a solution for you. Our upcoming social media app is called Plans, and it’s specifically designed to help you and your friends make them. With our app, the events that populate your newsfeed are based on the shared interests of you and your friends. Because Plans lets you add individual friends rather than join groups as in the Meetup app, the events you see on your newsfeed are more personalized. Think about it. Would you rather see events that you and your friends would be enjoy, or events that are suggested to you based on the groups of strangers you’ve browsed over the last several months? Plans isn’t all about images like a lot of other social media tools. It’s about cultivating quality experiences for you and your friends.
We’ll share out launch date very soon, but for now we’ve got a few other suggestions. When you’re browsing the internet for events you might want to attend with friends, be specific about your interests. If you want to see live music, search social media, Google, or other search engines for the kind of music you want to see- and the city or town where you want to see it. If you’re craving a foodie festival, look for local ones that are either dedicated to your favorite cultural cuisine or have a little bit of everything for you and your friends. While you’re browsing events online, consult your friends. (Here’s when that mass text might actually come in really handy). Once you’ve all agreed on something to do, you can get started on the details, such as transportation and what time to meet up. Again, the group text. We know time is of the essence, so these are some ways to spend it wisely.
Also, if you’ve got a Facebook (or Instagram or Twitter) friend who always seems to be in the know about subjects or events that really interest you, don’t just follow or friend them. Also follow hashtags pertaining to events that they use often, and your feed is more likely to make suggestions you actually want to see.