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What Do You Do When a Friend or Relative Backs Out of a Plan You Made?

It is something we’ve probably all experienced. You make a plan with a friend or relative, and at the last minute, they cancel. What do you do when that happens?

Flash Pack, a company that organizes adventures for solo travelers, commissioned a study to answer that question and other questions about solo experiences. Their premise seemed to be that when plans get canceled, people too often just stay home instead of doing what they already planned to do, only on their own. Those poor people are missing out on some great experiences that way, their attitude seemed to be.

In their study, they found some evidence for their assumptions, which I’ll describe. But first, I’ll add a different perspective, familiar to introverts. Sure, you may feel badly when a friend or relative makes a commitment to do something with you, then doesn’t follow through. But sometimes you may also be secretly happy and relieved. You get to stay home alone, and have more time to yourself!

The Flash Pack survey was based on responses from 1,000 men and women in the U.S., ages 18 to 65, from all regions and income levels.

Forty-four percent (44%) of the participants said that their plans were often canceled because their friends were too busy. What did they do then? The vast majority did not pursue the experience on their own. Instead, 59% stayed home, and another 26% used the time to do some work or some chores.

More than 3 out of 5 people in the survey (63%) said that they did not feel confident doing things on their own. They worried about what other people would think. They thought they would feel judged.

Before I did any of my own research on single people or single life, that’s what I thought, too – that people would be judgmental when they saw someone dining alone. In my very first study, my colleagues and I tested that idea. We showed people photos of people who were either dining alone or with one or two or three other people. (Details are here and here.)

My predictions were wrong. People were no more judgmental about the solo diners than about the couples or pairs or groups. It is true that they sometimes said harsh things about the people dining on their own; but equally often, they threw shade at the couples. Similarly, sometimes they said nice things about the couples, but equally often, they were positive about the solo diners.

On the basis of their survey findings, Flash Pack estimates that people are missing out on an average of 26 experiences each year because they hesitate to go solo. The irony is that the same people, when asked about their past experiences when they did do something on their own, overwhelmingly responded positively: 83% said they enjoyed those experiences.

Systematic research supports both components of the psychology of doing things alone in public. People expect to have a hard time going out alone, just for fun. But then when they actually do what they feared, they mostly enjoy the experiences.

The Flash Pack survey was conducted near the beginning of the new year, so participants were asked about resolving to do more things on their own in 2020. Three out of ten (30%) committed to doing so. Among people in a romantic relationship, 28% resolved to do more things on their own; among the single people, even more made that commitment to themselves, 34%.

Here’s hoping they stick to those resolutions. Unless, of course, they are introverts who secretly rejoice in the opportunity to do more things on their own – by staying home alone.

What Do You Do When a Friend or Relative Backs Out of a Plan You Made?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2020). What Do You Do When a Friend or Relative Backs Out of a Plan You Made?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Feb 2020
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