My ninth-grade English teacher once told me that I had a “tardiness disease,” and frankly, I’m still offended. Being a few minutes late here and there hardly qualifies as a disease, especially considering that the class was before 7 a.m. and I had to get there using highly unreliable public transportation. Besides, there are people out there with real tardiness problems. Don’t we all have someone in our lives who’s chronically late? I’m talking about the friends and family members you have to give a thirty-minute to hour-long head start to anytime you want to hang out. We make concessions like these because we know they’re good and well-intentioned people, but that doesn’t explain why they often fail to show up on time, and why their bad behavior keeps repeating itself, despite their frequent apologies.
It’s tempting to write off chronically late people as being too self-involved, but it’s not as simple as that. In fact, some psychological theories point to a number of personality traits, including low self-esteem and anxiety, that can trigger constant tardiness.
Traits That Make Us Tardy
Some theorists believe that always being late is an inborn quality, and they may be right; after all, whether we’re early birds or night owls is partly biologically determined. Freudian adherents think it’s what happens when children who subconsciously want to rebel against their parents grow up and defy authority (authority being designated times, in this case). But other experts believe that certain individuals are chronically tardy because they actually benefit from the tendency, whether they realize it or not.
In the book Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, author Diana DeLonzor suggests that numerous personality characteristics make lateness more likely:
* Feeling nervous or uncomfortable about social situations
* Liking the adrenaline surge that comes with rushing
* Blaming other circumstances, rather than oneself
* Struggling with self-control
* Having a hard time saying no and taking on too many obligations
* Wanting to feel more in control
* Getting distracted easily
Part of DeLonzor’s research into chronic tardiness included a study she performed at San Francisco State University in 1997. She gave 225 people personality tests and surveyed them about their tardiness habits. DeLonzor found that those who were often late tended to be more prone to anxiety and distraction. They also had lower self-esteem and self-control levels. In another part of the study, she had participants read a book, then stop themselves when they thought ninety minutes had passed. Not surprisingly, those who ran late most of the time stopped themselves well after the ninety-second mark.
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