Increasing awareness: Why you get anxious when you’re late

June 25, 2015 by Joshua
in Awareness

You’re late for something important. You’re annoyed at yourself. Your mind fills with anxiety. You come up with excuses to explain your lateness to the person you don’t want to be late for.

Moreover, you can’t do anything about it. The subway seems to wait an eternity at each stop. Or maybe traffic is stalled. Your emotions get intense as a result.

Here’s something you probably never noticed before.

You don’t get anxious because of the lateness nor out of concern for yourself, at least not directly. You get anxious and your emotions get intense for the other person, so you can credibly show it wasn’t your fault or that you did all you could to fix it, as a show of respect to the other person.

I may be overstating it and every situation is unique, but consider what happens when you’re late to something where there isn’t someone important waiting for you. Imagine you’re going somewhere to relax and read a book but you’re late by the same amount and the subway or traffic is holding you up just as much. You don’t freak out. Same if you’re the more important person and no one is depending on you.

The anxiety helps you diffuse the situation with the other person. Imagine you walked in late to see someone important and you said to them, “I know I’m late, but it’s no big deal, I know you don’t mind.” It would be the height of rudeness to show you care so little about them. If instead you show you’re freaked out, it shows you respect them.

Just a few notes on knowing your emotions and raising awareness of them.

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