“Sorry I can’t - I’m too busy…”

“I wish I could, but I’m so busy…”

“I’ll try to get back to you; I’m really busy…”

We’ve all used phrases like this before. Have you ever stopped to think about what it means?

Well, don’t worry about it - I did it for you. So now all you have to do is read the blog post!

When you tell someone that you are too busy, what you actually mean is this: There is nothing in your currently planned list of activities that you consider to be lower in priority than the thing you are being asked to do.

That’s it. That’s exactly what it means.

You could just as honestly answer like this: “I’d like to help, but the thing you are asking me to do is not as important as anything else I intend to do with my time.” We don’t actually say that because it sounds hurtful, whereas saying “I’m busy” makes it sound like the problem is outside of us and beyond our control, and that makes it an easier pill to swallow.

Sometimes you actually are too busy. To stop and help might mean missing a very important prior commitment. Or to go over and watch a football game with your friend might mean not helping your child study for her math test.

However, sometimes we say “I’m too busy” when what we really mean is, “Doing this thing you are asking me to do is not as important to me as binge-watching my current favorite cupcake-bakeoff show for three hours tonight.”

I’ve come to realize this, and I don’t get offended if you tell me you are too busy for whatever I’m asking of you. It is actually completely okay with me if you tell me you are too busy, and it should be okay with anyone else. We should always be free to use this phrase to gently tell someone “This is not as important to me as what I’d planned to use my time for” by saying we are too busy.

It’s just important that we be aware of what we really mean when we say it.