How Do You Respond When Someone Says . . .

imageIn the past 24 hours, about six people have said to me, “You are a busy lady” – or something like that. It usually happens when I’ve been playing phone tag with someone and we finally connect. Or I have an appointment out of the office and someone comes 15 minutes early to my office and expects me to be waiting for them, but I arrive 5 minutes later, still a few minutes before we  are scheduled to meet. Or someone stops by with no appointment and asks if I have ten minutes to talk about something (which might actually take thirty minutes) and when I say “No, I’ve got a meeting in 3 minutes,” he/she says:

Wow, you’re so busy.”

How would you respond?

  • Yes, I am.
  • I’ve always got time for you.”
  • We’re all pretty busy.”

It makes me wonder:

  • Do I give off the appearance of being harried or crazed or wiped out or so-incredibly-important-that-I-have-no-time-for-you? (I don’t think so, but – faithful friends – please do me a favor and let me know if I’m sending “I’m constantly overwhelmed” vibes.)
  • Do people expect that we (my colleagues and I) are just hanging out waiting for someone to call or show up?
  • Do men get these comments as often as women? (i.e. Is there a subconscious expectation that female employees should always be available to help?)

I’m about as busy as everyone around me seems to be. But how would you respond to comments like this?  Just curious.

7 responses to “How Do You Respond When Someone Says . . .

  1. Jan, I do get that and I usually respond along the lines of “yes, I’m busy but I’m glad to speak with you now.” I do ask people to make appointments and when they show up early, I’ll usually finish what I’m doing first before I see them. If folks come unnanounced and I”m “free”, I try to set a boundary of time for the conversation “unless you’d like to come in later when I”ve got more time.” I’d like for folks to consider the pastor’s time and availability as similar to a doctor or dentist or even a plumber.


  2. “I don’t know that ‘busy’ is the word for it. I just can only do one thing at a time.”


  3. I hate the “b” word and try not to use it. And then cringe when it’s used on me. “Busy” brings up an image of non-productive running around. I have taken to using the word “full” instead. No, I’m not busy, just have a full schedule.


  4. I get these comments all the time. I hope (and don’t think) its a vibe that I let off, but more a sense that I do a lot and people either don’t think or don’t want to project that their issue/thought/problem rises to importance (which isn’t true, of course). Or they’re worried whether I can handle another thing.

    Last two weeks DW was out of town so I had kids plus regular duties plus two funerals. I was busy. But I adjusted other things and it was fine. But my concern is that people don’t trust or see that I can and do adjust and so they don’t come to me with things when they need to come to me.

    I don’t know an answer other than being fully present when they come and telling people that I’ll be fine and that I need them to come to me.


  5. All wise answers! I hate the “busy” word, too because it calls up my own feeling that I’m not managing time well…”Just a full schedule” frames it so much better.


  6. I get it a lot too, and have witnessed the comment evenly distributed between my male and female coworkers. I sometimes feel as though I unintentionally give off the “busy” vibe because people will often preface their requests for a phone call/meeting with “I know you’re really busy, but…”. When that happens, I will acknowledge that I have a full schedule (if I do), but follow it up with something to the effect that I am more than happy to assist or support however I am able. If I’m not busy but sending off the busy vibe, I do my best to reassure them that I’m available. It can be a tricky situation, but on the plus side I don’t think it’s usually meant to be taken as a negative comment (at least, in my experience it hasn’t been)


  7. Pingback: Beyond Busy | Sabbath in the Suburbs… and Beyond

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