“Most people really hate being late and have tried many times to fix it,” DeLonzor says. “Punctual people misunderstand. They think you’re doing it as a control thing, or that you’re selfish or inconsiderate. But it really is a much more complex problem than it seems.”In a study she led at San Francisco State University of 225 people, she found that about 17 percent were chronically late. Among them, there were clear patterns. Late people tended to procrastinate more, demonstrated trouble with self-control (were more prone to habits such as overeating, drinking too much, gambling and impulse shopping), showed an affinity for thrill-seeking and displayed ADD-like symptoms-restlessness, trouble focusing and attention issues.
“People who are chronically late are often wrestling with anxiety, distraction, ambivalence or other internal psychological states,” says Pauline Wallin, Ph.D., a psychologist in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
Jeff Conte, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University who has studied lateness in the workplace, says that there are deep-rooted personality characteristics at play, making lateness a very difficult habit to break. DeLonzor quips that telling a late person to be on time is like telling a dieter not to eat so much. “If it were that easy, we wouldn’t have Weight Watchers.”
With the right approach, however, the eternally tardy can change their ways.
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