What is your favorite 4 letter word?
Mine is DAMN!
I like it because it’s a cuss word without being too offensive. I also really love the “F” word but I reserve that for times when I really need it.
We can all agree that there are situations when no other word will do except a well placed F-bomb. Am I right?
This article is NOT about how we should slow down and find more me-time or the magical and illusive life-work balance and all that. If that is what you were hoping to find you should stop reading and immediately join the nearest yoga class. It will help.
Still here? Let’s delve into the power the word BUSY has over us and other people when used incorrectly.
It might help to keep in mind that people remember how you make them feel long after they remember anything else about you. The way we use the word BUSY is not conveying what you think it is.
BUSY is the New “F” Word
I’d like to propose that we start treating the word BUSY like we do the “F” word. Only use it when absolutely necessary and in a negative context.
The word busy has the power to make other people feel unimportant, brushed off, or ignored.
Here’s what I mean:
As a mom, I run into other moms all the time. At school, the grocery store, kids’ events, etc. I am also a business owner so I dedicate several hours a week to networking. I talk to a lot of professionals too.
ME: “Hey, how are you?”
THEM (almost every time): “I’m so busy!”
ME (in my head): I guess they don’t have time for me so I won’t follow up with an invite for coffee or lunch or this great referral I have.
Is this what you want the other person to think when you say, “I’m so busy!“?
Often times people use the phrase “I’m so busy” either out of habit or to convey that they have important things going on.
“Look at me! I am KILLING it as a mom, a professional, a wife, a friend and ALL THE THINGS!”
However, this is NOT how you are coming across.
Why do we feel the need to tell people we are so busy?
I am not a psychologist or expert on human behavior, but I am human and I like to think I pay attention to how I feel and how I make others feel.
AND, I use to say, “I’m so busy” with abandoned as my own personal mantra. I was so guilty of this.
Our culture today thrives on busy. If you aren’t hustling you aren’t achieving. Ugh. This way of thinking is so damaging.
When you say, “I’m so busy” you might mean to indicate that you have a lot going on. That you are important. That you are achieving things. That you are productive.
What you actually portray is that you are unavailable. Not something you want other networkers to think-especially if you are trying to gain new clients (or friends.)
We are all BUSY!
It must be said. We are all busy.
No one has the market cornered on this. You aren’t special because you are busy. You just aren’t.
You are special because you are building things, meeting goals, raising children, working, achieving….you know…LIVING!
How to Respond to “I’m so busy!”
Business and Networking
In the past, I refrained from referring business to someone who routinely exclaimed “I’m so busy.” We all know these people. We ARE these people.
Now though, after thinking about this busy epidemic, I follow up with, “Does your schedule allow you to take on another client? I have a great referral for you if you have the time.”
This is me being nicer and more fair, because most people don’t realize that their busy life is putting people off. They don’t mean to sound like they don’t have time. And I don’t want to sound like an A-hole.
Friends and Acquaintances
When it comes to friends that say, “I’m so busy!” I use to bow out of the conversation quickly because I assumed they really just didn’t have time for me or anything else.
Now I say, “Wow, what have you been up to?”
If I really like the person I might offer, “Is there anything I can help you with?”
They usually decline but we both feel good about it.
Then I might say, “I’d love to get together for a cup of coffee when you have time. Get a hold of me.”
I leave the invitation in their court since they have the crazy schedule. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Either way is ok. I still invite them again the next time I see them.
As a side note, when people say things to me like, “I know you are busy…” or “You must be so busy” I assure them that I have things going on and I really enjoy my work, but I have time for them. I am not that busy. And it’s true. I will make time.
I have also been known to say, “I don’t want to give you the impression I don’t have time for you.”
I have occasionally asked, “Did I do or say something to give you the impression that I was really busy?”
Again, not trying to be an A-hole. I really want to know so I can stop doing it. As gloriously flawed humans we assume people are really busy. And we are, but we need to get some perspective on this.
What to say instead of “I’m so busy”
If we start by recognizing the word BUSY for what it truly is: A 4 letter word only to be trotted out and used at the most dire of times, our message will become much clearer.
There will be times when you are truly BUSY and overwhelmed and have very little time. F*&^%$**@!!!!!!!!! Use it. Scream it. Go to yoga and calm the hell down.
But for the rest of the time when it’s just regular life happening try the following instead.
For when you use busy but you actually mean important (be honest with yourself):
“I’m great. I’ve gained some new clients in the past few months and am onboarding them.”
“I’ve been really productive lately. I’m developing an online course and writing a lot.”
“My family is really active and I’ve been running the kids around to all their activities. Let’s find time to catch up!”
Replace the word busy with any of the following:
Productive. Achieving. Active. Accomplishing. Hustling. Growing. Eager. Excited. Determined. Planning. Invested.
Here are some more phrases:
Reaching my goals. Setting new goals. Getting stuff done. Trying something new. Supporting my kids. Looking forward to…Helping others to…Looking for opportunities to…
You get the idea. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Have you noticed people reacting differently to you when you change your message?
How many people tell you in a week, “I’m so busy?”. Keep track. You will be amazed!
Eliminating the word busy from my daily vocabulary has made a big difference for me. I hope the people in my life understand that I have time for them. I can sleep good at night knowing that.
Amy Zander is the owner of Zeedia Media, a marketing agency focused on content creation. She is also the co-founder of Brand Archetypes (a simple and powerful way for companies to develop their brand) and co-hosts a weekly Podcast, Brand Archetypes. She is available as a public speaker on a variety of topics including communication, marketing, and branding. Even though it seems like she has a lot going on, she is always up for grabbing a coffee or even better, a cocktail! Amy also occasionally does yoga to calm down.
Contact Amy at Amy@ZeediaMeida.com or through various social media accounts @ZeediaMedia.