How to Reply to “I’m Late”


When someone shares they are late, let them know how you feel about it and do your best to accommodate the situation. There are times when someone simply can’t help it due to circumstances out of their control.

Your relationship with them can also influence how you respond when someone tells you they will be late. It should be handled differently if it is a personal relationship versus a professional one.

If someone is rarely late, show understanding and offer your support, for example: “All right, I’ll go get the tickets, and I’ll see you at the entrance.” In the case of chronically late people, you should address your displeasure calmly but openly.

Of course, some are chronically late, and that creates a serious problem. Your time is valuable too, and you will have to nip that problem in the bud with them. Don’t make it a big deal when someone is late on a rare occasion now and then.

Personal Relationships

Meeting up with friends or family is fun! There can be many reasons why someone is running late. They may be stuck in traffic, there was an issue with kids, they worked late, or any number of things.

When possible, be accommodating so they can show up and not stress about being late.

What to Say:

“I understand, see you when you get here. I will wait out front.”

“It happens, no problem. Be safe getting here. I have a few phone calls to catch up on and I will make them while I wait in the parking lot.”

“Thank you for letting me know. Do you think you will be here before the show starts?”

“I will see if they can bump our reservation back a bit.”

“We have plenty of time so don’t worry about it. See you soon.”

Business Relationships

It doesn’t reflect well when someone is running late for a business meet-up. It can portray them as poorly managing their time or not fully committing to the discussion.

Give them the benefit of the doubt though. They may have gotten lost or their flight could have been delayed.

Perhaps they have a full schedule and another meeting ran later but they couldn’t just leave.

What to Say:

“I understand you have a busy schedule. Do you still have time to fit me into your day or do we need to reschedule?

“These things happen from time to time. Thank you for letting me know you are running late. Do you know your estimated time of arrival?”

“We all have it happen, don’t worry about it. Thanks for notifying me, I will be in my office when you get here.”

“I will take care of a few other tasks until you arrive, it is fine. I appreciate you letting me know what occurred.

“Would it be easier if we move our meeting to 4:30? I want to have the full amount of time to discuss the project with you and not feel rushed.”

When You Can’t Wait

There are times when someone is running late but you can’t wait for them. You have to decide to reschedule or to move forward without them. They should understand this and not give you a hard time.

If they are meeting you for an event, there isn’t anything you can do about the time. If they tell you they are late, you can convey this message without sounding rude.

What to Say – Personal

“That is disappointing, the show starts at 7 pm. I can leave your ticket at the ticket window booth and you can join us when you get there.”

“Our reservation is for now, and if they don’t seat us we will lose it. We will get seated and hopefully, you can be here soon.”

“I am sorry that I won’t be able to wait for you. I only have an hour for lunch and if you will be 20 minutes late I will be in a rush to get back. Let’s reschedule it for next week so we have time to visit.”

I have a busy afternoon and an appointment I can’t miss. Unfortunately, that was the only time I was able to see you today, but we will do something together soon. Don’t worry about not making it.”

What to Say – Professional

“I have a tight schedule today, thanks for letting me know you are going to be late. I won’t be able to squeeze you in but let me know what your calendar looks like for Monday when you get back to the office.”

“We will need to reschedule the presentation; the room is being used by someone else and we won’t have enough time when you arrive to go through all of it.”

“I wanted to treat you to lunch and to talk about the project, but we will have to do that another time if you are late. I don’t have extra time as I have another commitment.”

What Can You Do to Help?

Sometimes when a person is late, they could use a bit of help. When possible, offer to do this for them. If you aren’t sure what you can do, simply ask them. They may have something in mind that will make them feel less rushed.

What to Say – Personal

“No worries, I will grab tickets and the popcorn for us before the movie. Just come on in and I will be in the lobby waiting for you. The previews will still be on when we get to our seats.”

“Try not to stress about it, do you want me to pick up your kids for you?”

“Do you want to change our plans and meet somewhere closer to where you are to eat?”

“Would it be easier for you if we don’t hang out today and do this another time?”

What to Say – Professional

“I will get copies of everything printed out and ready for all of us when you get here.”

“Go to the 4th level for parking, then take the walkway over, it is easier and faster that way.”

“Would it be better for us to talk on the phone today rather than in person?”

“My next appointment is early so I will see them first, then you when you arrive.”

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