It can be damning when someone makes you wait, right?
Maybe they were honestly busy, or maybe they were playing a power game on you.
Sometimes it’s hard to say.
But there you are, waiting for them.
What you do when someone makes you wait determines what kind of relationship you are going to have.
And it determines how much they are going to respect you (or not going to respect you)
If you handle it well you will send the message that you value your time, that you demand respect and that this is the last time they will leave you waiting.
In this article, we will explain how to do just that.
- The Power Dynamics of Making Someone Wait
- What To Do When Waiting for Someone
- How Much Should They “Pay”?
- Waiting For Someone: The Mindsets
- Dealing With People Who Make You Wait: Summary
The Power Dynamics of Making Someone Wait
Making you wait is a common social power move in both business and dating. It shows that the person letting you wait:
- Is the chooser, because if they don’t rush and you rushed and are happy to wait, it means you probably need something from them. Indeed a salesperson does not make the prospect wait but the prospect can make the salesperson wait;
- Is more powerful as it’s a slight sign of disrespect. You don’t let your boss wait usually;
- Is higher value, by communicating that whatever else they were doing is more important than you. And it lowers your value by saying that your time is not as important as theirs.
What To Do When Waiting for Someone
Of course, you are not cool with any of those implications, so let’s see how you restore some power balance.
#1. Prevention: Meet at Your Convenience
Prevention always goes a long way. Here are a few I routinely deploy:
- Meet Close to Your Place
Whenever possible, choose meetings which are easy for you.
If you’re a man and we’re talking about dating, always choose a location near your place: it’s best for both.
- Confirm The Meeting
If it’s anything you have to leave the house for, always confirm place and time on the morning of the schedule meeting. Confirmation will make it harder for them to let you wait without looking disorganized.
In dating this is great texting best-practice to prevent flakes.
- Plan B
“Plan B” is anything allowing you not to waste your time if you have to wait. For example, I always have noise canceling earphones with a new audiobook in my phone, so worst case scenario I imbibe knowledge :).
The more you inconvenience yourself to meet someone, the more power you are giving them. Now remember, there are exceptions: if you need something from them, then you should make it easy for them and meet as close to them as possible.
If it’s a meeting with a friend, meeting middle way or alternating between easy for your and easy for him is fair.
#2. Start Without Them
You Wait for Nobody
Once they fail to show up in a timely fashion, whenever possible start doing whatever you had planned doing without waiting.
So if you are sitting at a diner table, order. If waiting outside office for lunch, go by yourself. If you are at a meeting, start the meeting without them.
Once people join the meeting late they will feel they have been marginalized and might try to grab attention back. They might say “sorry I was very busy”. Or they might try to interrupt your speech with some made up stuff like “sorry I was busy, where can I sit”.
Don’t dignify their excuse or you are giving them power back.
Instead, say it’s OK, but say so very nonchalantly and then move on. If they ask you a question, don’t reply verbally or reply the bare minimum.
For example, if they ask where they can sit, keep talking and point to an empty chair.
If they ask for a recap, don’t give a recap and say you will take it off line 1:1 after you’re done. If you can’t avoid answering, add a little zinger in there. Something like:
“Yes, this is important for you to know so I’ll repeat. Everyone else has already heard it so I’ll be brief”
You’re communicating here that because of them everyone is being inconvenienced and you’re not afraid of highlighting it.
Notice: “this is important for you to know so I’ll repeat” is a great way to reduce your compliance to them. Instead of just following the order you add that you repeat… Because it’s important for them to know, not because they just told you. Don’t let the late ahole take away your power, but comply because you want to instead.
Waiting dignifies the late party and acknowledges that they, indeed, are important and can keep you waiting.
It’s also a bad operant conditioning strategy (operant conditioning) as now everyone will think it’s OK to come late. And when you fail to educate people to respect your time, you can kiss goodbye to your chances of ever starting on time -and generally being respected for that matter-.
Starting no matter what instead does the complete opposite. It puts the pressure on them for having joined late and sends the message that you wait for nobody.
Kabhib did great when he pressed to start the conference on time.
#3. Busy Yourself
You ain’t got time to waste
If you can’t start, use that time. Bring anything with you that allows you to turn any downtime into productive time -including waiting for some ahole to play his games-.
If you have a laptop, use it. Or carry an ebook reader, or put an audiobook in your phone you can listen to. If all else fail, call someone you had to call or call someone you didn’t have to call just to say hi.
You are communicating here that you are a man who places a high value on his time and is not to be inconvenienced by their power plays. It will also soften the power of their move as you didn’t feel any impact.
#4. Even The Scores: Let Them Wait
Tit For That: Fight Fire With Fire
As also recommended by Allan Pease (Definitive Book of Body Language), when your beloved Power Mover finally shows up, let him greet you first and be slightly colder than usual in your greetings.
If you are behind a laptop screen or if you were reading an ebook, don’t raise your head until they say something. Let them speak first, and then slowly raise your head and slowly pack.
If you were talking to someone, finish the sentence or keep talking for a little bit before you turn around to say hi: you will communicate that the party who respected your time and presence gets more respect than the party who let you wait.
If you were on the phone, keep talking for a little bit longer before you hang up and possibly shake the Power Mover hand while you’re still on the phone -a devilishly sneaky move to lower his status-.
Notice Ashton Kutcher doesn’t say anything when his date arrives late and is rather cold and standoffish (turns his head the other way, looks ahead in the space). He puts social pressure on her to speak first, lean towards him and apologize, which helps restore some power balance.
she’s very shrewd though and hell bent in keeping the power on her side. She leads towards the table first and thus forcing him to follow. But that’s another topic
If you greet him first as soon as he arrives you look like a dog waiting for the owner. Letting them come to you and greet you first instead is a very easy way of restoring some power balance.
And of course, make them apologize:
#5. Demand Respect & Let Them Apologize
…And Don’t Rush Saying “It’s OK”
If they enter the room or join you pretending nothing happened, they are disrespecting you.
That’s when you want to straighten things out openly or prod them into an apology.
If you are on the same level or if you are above in the company or social hierarchy, be open and direct. Tell them it was not OK to let you wait and please not do so anymore without any warning. An apology is almost guaranteed at this point and you can resume being friendly after that.
With fresher acquaintances or with a job interviewer or boss, you want to be more indirect. For example you could look at your watch when they enter the room.
A further step below that, here are a couple of nice ways to nudge them towards an apology while at the same time showing some warmth:
“Hi, pleasure meeting you, I was thinking something happened”
“Hi, good to see you, I was getting worried everything was OK”
People who are inconveniencing you should be volunteering apologies for the delay. If they don’t, it’s only fair you nudge them towards it.
#6. Let Them Pay
How to Restore Power Balance
If we are talking about a major delay and you’re meeting for a coffe or lunch a person looking for a fair relationship might offer to pay.
At that point, you can go ahead and refuse because what matters most is the gesture.
The gesture, in this case, shows sincere apology and concern, which by itself restores the balance of power.
If you were the one running late you can actually end up strengthening the relationship when you volunteer to make it up for them because it’s an opportunity to show that you care.
But “letting them pay” doesn’t have to financial. If the power mover doesn’t apologize sufficiently, you could for example leave earlier than planned saying you unluckily have something important to attend and it’s unfortunate you two only had so little time to share.
He came late, you leave early, 1-1.
#7. Cut Them Loose
If you’re dealing with people who repeatedly disrespect your time or who don’t do anything to excuse their behavior, then it’s time to consider appropriate alternatives. It might be time to cut them loose.
Here are a few considerations to assess if that’s appropriate. Excluding people who simply don’t get it, there are two possible scenarios:
- They don’t value you
- They are actively trying to undermine you
If they don’t value you, you can keep interacting with them in case you are the only party who’s getting value from the interaction. For example, if the other party is your mentor and he’s always late, you can willingly decide to take that disrespectful attitude in exchange for his help.
If it’s an otherwise balanced relationship and they still often let you wait, start demanding investment back to be on an equal footing and if they refuse to stop meeting them on their terms.
Number two, you always cut them loose.
How Much Should They “Pay”?
As we’ve already talked about in the Social Exchange Theory, human relationships do have an element of exchange. So to restore the correct power balance it’s important to understand the relationship dynamic.
Is it you who needs something from them? In this case don’t go overboard with the above tips. Is it them who wanted something from you? Then follow each and every step from above and quickly end the relationship if they don’t take major steps to restore the balance.
And of course, if we’re talking about close relationships, always cut more slack because it’s more unlikely we’re talking about Power Moves there.
Waiting For Someone: The Mindsets
As usual, the mindsets are the most important part.
You’re a Fair Man, You Demand Fair Relationships
You are looking for a fair and balanced relationship. Even if you’re at a job interview and theoretically you want the position more than they need another candidate, there’s no excuse for playing power games.
Letting you wait on purpose is indeed a sign they are not looking for a fair relationship. But that doesn’t change who you are and what you’re after, and that’s why:
No Vendetta: Only a Fair Relationship
You’re not looking for vendetta and you don’t sulk like a wronged kid.
You deploy any method you can to restore the power balance because you always stand up to power plays and demand win-win relationships.
But once you restore the balance, you stop pushing. As a matter of fact, once you achieve balance, you turn 360 degrees and make them feel good they helped you balance the relationship. That’s positive operant conditioning right there.
When you do that people will feel you’re a man of high value and will feel like idiots they tried to play you now that you’re so welcoming.
Your Time is Valuable
Finally, you view your time as valuable. You don’t necessarily want to be mean, but you’re not going to sit at a restaurant table fidgeting around.
Dealing With People Who Make You Wait: Summary
Making you wait is one of the oldest Power Moves around.
It lowers your value and raise the value of the person making you wait.
Your goal then is to neutralize those effects.
The above techniques are all designed to re-set the power balance and restart afresh towards a win-win relationship. If they don’t do it, you have to shoulder the whole burden of channeling the relationship in that direction.
Don’t complain, but smile. That’s the high-value man burden :).
And here’s a real-life example of deliberately letting someone wait in high-level politics: