Is it ever OK to cancel plans with friends?

24 March 2022

The pandemic has changed plenty of things – particularly how we approach our friendships.

Half of UK adults say the Covid pandemic and lockdowns made them re-evaluate friendships, relationships, family and work, according to research from YouGov.

“There’s been a lot more distance between some people, with not being able to meet up” over the various lockdowns, says relationship coach John Kenny (known as the Relationship Guy,

“But I also think it’s been quite useful, especially with some of the clients I work with, because they’ve recognised some of the relationships they had with friends weren’t particularly good for them. They’ve been able to re-evaluate them.” It’s also helped them realise who they want to stay close with, and work on “re-establishing those connections”.

Has the pandemic helped you realise which relationships are most important? (Alamy/PA)

Navigating friendships in our new, post-lockdown world can be tricky – and this is reflected in our online searches. Google has revealed some of the key questions adults want answers to, including how to make new friends and reconnect with loved ones – as well as how to put an end to negative friendships.

One particular query has been peaking: ‘Is it OK to cancel plans with friends?’

So, is it fine to bail on your mates? “Most definitely, yes,” says Kenny. “With the right friends, for the right reasons. If you’ve got the right type of friendship, they’re going to understand why you need to cancel – depending on the reasons.”

If you’re nervous about how to approach cancelling on a friend, Kenny says: “Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to these types of things.” And if you feel like you can’t tell the truth and you’re worried about the response you’ll get, Kenny wants you to ask yourself: “Are they a friend in the first place?”

Of course, you don’t want to get into a pattern of cancelling on your loved ones, so Kenny urges you to examine your motivations.

“Is the friendship something you’re maybe trying to move away from? Are you perhaps doing things with that person you don’t want to do – is the relationship on their terms? Do you always end up doing what they want to do, and rather than saying, ‘Look, I don’t want to do this’ – you’re just cancelling?”

On a more personal level, Kerry asks: “Is it something within you – maybe you’ve got a bit of social anxiety after the lockdowns, and you’re not quite comfortable yet with getting back out into the world?”

Ultimately, Kerry says: “If we start becoming a serial canceller, we really need to look at ourselves and say, ‘OK, why don’t I want to do this?’ And then make decisions accordingly – whether that’s seeking professional help if you’ve got social anxiety, or [deciding] your friendship groups maybe aren’t the healthiest.”

Google’s #ItsOktoAsk campaign reveals the questions adults are asking Google about decisions they are contemplating in 2022.

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