Optimistic people all have one thing in common: they’re always late

In Mind & Body, Philosophy & Culture
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When we made our date for lunch, I told Susan to meet me at noon for a table I had booked for 1pm. Why? She is always late, and I hate waiting for people.

Predictably, Susan saunters in at 1:10pm. No, I haven’t waited too long, I say, pleased at how I have managed her tardiness and my irritation at it.

As much as I hate waiting for people, I hate making people wait for me. I get all tensed up and phone to apologize in advance as soon as I realize that I’m not going to be on time.

And there’s the rub: while some of us don’t like to keep others waiting and get all worked up about it, some of us simply don’t. The punctual and the chronically late are two different species. People who always arrive late don’t hate waiting for others.

Their tolerance is one of the list of attributes that science ascribes to latecomers – most of them positive.

Now, let’s not jump to confusions and think that those of us who are punctual don’t share in these positive attributes.

First among them: people who are chronically late are inclined to be more optimistic and less stressed. In her book Never be late again, Diane DeLonzor’s says many latecomers tend to be both optimistic and unrealistic, which affects their perception of time. They are optimistic in their estimation of what they can get done in a certain space of time, but their estimation is unrealistic.

They also experience the passing of time differently. People who are late, tend to experience time as passing by slower. This phenomenon has been studied by Jeff Conte, an associate psychology professor at San Diego State University. The study found that Type B personalities (which latecomers fall under) reported that they thought 77 seconds had passed while it was only a minute. Type A personalities said they thought 58 seconds had passed.

So, for every minute that I have, someone who has a Type B personality has 17 seconds more. That adds up to quite a few minutes over the span of a day! I wonder, do they actually get more done with their longer days?

Type B personalities have a more laid-back nature, which means they are not bothered by little details like the departure time of flights or which platform the train is leaving from. They don’t factor in the time it takes to make sure of these details. When you have bitten through every nail on every finger on your way to dropping your Type B friend off at the airport, she’s bemused by your nerves: “Don’t worry! The flight won’t leave without me. I’m always late and I always get on the plane. Relax!”

So, it’s no surprise that our friends and family who keep us waiting are most likely going to survive us. Why? Well, they are less stressed and therefore have less heart problems and are likely to live longer, according to a study by the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology.

Moral of the story: being late is good for the longevity of Type B’s and probably not so good for the rest of us.