Does Saying “I’m Busy” Really Mean “I’m Just Rude”?

posted: 03/22/17
by: Amanda Mushro
Annoyed teen girl talking to mother in coffee shop

We get it. Life can get pretty crazy, and adding one more thing to your already busy schedule can put you over the edge. So when a friend asks you out to dinner or you are invited to a small get-together with friends you haven't seen in a while, you might respond by saying "Sorry, I'm busy." However, does this simple decline really signal more than you won't be able to attend? Can you really not commit or are you just being rude?

An article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that while our days are filled with long work hours, family commitments, and time-sucks like social media, saying "I'm busy" is really just a rude response. According to the author, "When we tell someone we're too busy to give them more than a few moments of our attention -- too busy for a call or a meal or a visit -- what they hear is this: 'I am too busy for you. You don't matter enough to me.'"

Of course that's not the impression that we want to give, and that's probably not the reason behind saying "I'm busy." So why is "I'm busy" perceived this way? "The statement 'I'm busy' has long been a code -- for 'I'm feeling overwhelmed' or 'life is chaotic," say the author. "Our culture discourages people, especially men, from unloading their mood or troubles on others, so we claim to be busy to avoid a discussion."

So what can we do and say rather than "I'm busy"? Three things: be honest, be specific, and schedule less. The author says "When people ask how you are, be more exact: 'My life is intense.' 'I am a little behind.' 'I'm feeling frustrated at the moment.'" Rather than declining, give more of an explanation. Finally, try to free up your schedule because other options and commitments will pop up. This way, you can schedule in more fun.

Tell us in the poll below, do you use the excuse "I'm busy"? Do you think it's rude or is that all the information you need to share with someone else?