What to Do if You're Stood Up?

The excitement of a date can be enough to give you butterflies. But what if the date doesn’t show? Check the top 3 tips for handling this sticky situation.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #185

What to do if You’re Stood Up?

I owe this week’s topic to the loyal tribe of Modern Manners Guy readers and listeners. Of all the questions I receive, dating and relationship conundrums seem to be on the top of everyone’s list. One area of concern that’s come up lately is how to handle being stood up. So today, I’ll tackle this incredible act of unmannerly behavior.

Dating isn’t easy, and being stood up on a date can surely cause your manners to go out the window in favor of rage and embarrassment. You feel angry, embarrassed, enraged. But why? Why should you allow someone – who obviously isn’t ready to be an adult – the chance to get under your skin?

So before you sit down at your table for one (sorry, too harsh?), check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for how to properly handle being stood up:

Tip #1: The King/Queen of Cool

Steve McQueen is known as the “King of Cool,” which is pretty much the most badass nickname in Hollywood history. It’s also a good lesson for our purposes. It reminds us not to let our boiling tempers get the best of us. We can’t pull off the calm swagger like the King himself, but there’s a lot to be said about someone if they can keep their ego in check when faced with an embarrassing situation like being stood up.

You probably spent all day thinking about your date, from the clothes you’ll wear to the conversation. But then, you find yourself waiting at the restaurant bar for 10 minutes too long…then 15…then 20…then 30! You check your phone and get nothing. You check your email – nothing. Then as much as you wished it wasn’t so, you realize you’ve been stood up. So, do you stay at the bar, get wasted and rant the no-show’s name to anyone who will listen?

No way! In times like this, you do like McQueen and play it cool.

First, realize you’re not the first to be stood up, you’re not the last, and sadly it may happen again in one way or another in your life. Did you waste your time? Yes. Does it suck that the person didn’t have the basic manners and call and cancel? Absolutely! However, that is where the emotional rollercoaster should end. If you allow yourself to dwell on the situation, it will only make you more upset or bitter.

I recommend staying at that bar/restaurant, but instead of drowning your sorrows in several rounds of Makers Mark, call up one of your friends to meet you. Heck, call two or three. That’s right, don’t waste the outfit and make it a night out. Order the nicest dish on the menu and enjoy the good company. So, if that deadbeat ever does call back to apologize, tell them it’s OK – you had a great time without them!

Tip #2: The 15 Minute/One Call Rule

Instead of getting all riled up, just follow this rule: Call once after 15 minutes of waiting.

Whether it’s a date or just meeting up with a friend, whenever someone is late, it's only polite to call or text to make sure everything is OK. This is the digital age, when smartphones and email rule all, so there is no excuse why someone can’t get in touch with you (unless they’re stuck underground).  The same thing goes through your mind when you are waiting for a date.

So what’s the usual pattern? Once you realize that you’re on the verge of being stood up, you call and leave a message. Your first call is always friendly, of course. But then you call again, this time a bit more concerned. You wait a few more minutes and then call again. Now you’re getting pretty annoyed. After 45 minutes, you’ve called four times and it’s become clear that A) your date is not showing up and B) they probably think you’re crazy.

I know, “crazy” isn’t the proper term, but that’s what they’re thinking, despite the fact that their rudeness was the cause of your calls.

Instead of getting all riled up, just follow this rule: Call once after 15 minutes of waiting.

It’s like in college when the professor doesn’t show up to class. The unofficial wait time is 15 minutes before bailing. You want to give your date a chance to arrive. Various things could cause the delay and giving someone the benefit of the doubt is always the better option.

However, if it goes to a half hour and your fingers are itching to dial, leave the following message: “Hey [name of rude person], I thought we were supposed to meet at the restaurant at 7:30. I’m guessing you got held up. Don’t worry, it’s cool. I hope everything is OK. Just call me another time and we can reschedule. Have a good night.”

What you’re doing here is giving them a chance to explain themselves when they call you back. If they don’t, then you’ve behaved like the bigger person rather than like a crazy stalker. Win-win!

Tip #3: The Corporate Ditch

“The Corporate Ditch” is when you’ve tried for a while to get a meeting with someone for business reasons and after finally nailing down a time to meet, you are stood up. 

Granted, this is not a romantic event, but being stood up for a business meeting still burns. You’ve done your research, you’ve prepared your pitch, and you’ve waited all week to finally, finally, have this meeting…only to be greeted with a voicemail. So, what do you do?

Don’t rant.

Don’t send an angry email that you’ll regret.

Don’t burn bridges.

When I was stood up for a business meeting, I wanted to curse person's name out loud, throw my iPhone across the restaurant, and even perform several backbreaking wrestling moves.

To avoid this fiasco, just remember my 15-minute rule from Tip #2, but then follow up with a call or email to reschedule. Let them know you understand they may have gotten busy, how much you looked forward to the meeting, and set another time to meet. Try something like this, “Hi [name of rude person] I guess you got held up this afternoon. Not a problem. I’m going to head out because I have another meeting across town, but let’s plan on getting together next Tuesday, same time and place. Does that work? Thanks again.”

This tactic forces a response. So whether they call back and accept the new meeting time or refuse, at least you’ll know exactly where you stand and won’t waste any more of your valuable time.

Do you have a great story about being stood up and how you handled it? Post all the details in Comments below. As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips.

Woman Waiting image from Shutterstock