British Columbia

B.C. bail much? The holiday season is here and so are last-minute party cancellations

Call it bailing, flaking or 'last-minute-itis.' With the holiday season upon us, odds are pretty good you will either bail or be bailed on at some point in the next month or so.

Experts say social anxiety is often at root of 'last-minute-itis'

If you need to bail on an event last-minute in favour of chilling by the fire, experts say be transparent with your friends and family about your plans. (Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Call it bailing, flaking or plain old cancelling. With the holiday season upon us, odds are pretty good you will either bail or be bailed on at some point over the next month or so.

Work stress, family obligations, financial constraints, or simply having to travel on a rainy West Coast night can prompt people to cancel agreed-upon plans at the last minute.

It's known as the B.C. bail. Vancouverites are notorious for it, and experts say social anxiety, especially during the holidays can be a trigger.

"There's a lot of expectations we have for ourselves and others at this time of the year, and it results in difficulty committing to social obligations," said Aiden Ansarian, a Vancouver-based registered clinical counsellor.

Ansarian, like so many others, learned the hard way about the B.C. bail.

Shortly after moving to Vancouver in 2014, he was making plans for various get-togethers with new people he had met.

Locations and meet-up times were agreed upon, but there were a few no-shows, which left Ansarian more than bewildered since he hadn't experienced that phenomenon living in Toronto.

Now he counsels people on how to better manage anxiety, relationship issues and communication — and in greater numbers during the holidays, he said.

Getting 'Vancouvered'

Urban Dictionary has another term for the B.C. bail. It describes getting "Vancouvered" as being cancelled on an hour before your get-together.

The crowdsourced online dictionary for slang words and phrases says this is typical of the Vancouver social scene, ensuring "people don't develop deep connections."

People often bail last-minute on planned holiday events due to social anxiety. One expert advises to step outside your comfort zone, push through it and go out. (Credit: Getty Images)

"Flaking pisses me off," commented a user with the name laserdance in a recent Reddit post that asks: Is the B.C. bail real?

Laserdance and dozens of other Reddit users weighed in on what many in Vancouver have learned in various and disheartening ways — the B.C. bail is very real.

"People are always like 'sorryyyy, it's raining and I'm feeling introverted, maybe next time,'" laserdance wrote.

"It's like dude, you knew this was coming up. Prepare yourself."

Dr. Matthew Flisfeder, an associate professor of rhetoric and communications at the University of Winnipeg, says we are still trying to navigate the social nuances of how to effectively bail without damaging relationships. 

"We need to be sensitive to the needs and interests of other people," said Flisfeder.

"We have to use language to communicate effectively and sensitively to let them know their friendship is very important." 

Ansarian suggests people be upfront with friends about how they feel as soon as the invitation is offered. If you don't want to go, say so at that time.

And if you still decide to cancel at the last minute, both experts say be honest and transparent about your plans. It shows that you respect your friend and your friendship.

Exposure therapy

If heightened social anxiety has turned you into a party pooper during the holidays, Ansarian advises getting the support you need to conquer it — and then show up.

"The gold standard treatment for social anxiety is exposure therapy," said Ansarian, who recommends gradually stepping outside your comfort zone. 

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