How often do you find yourself being asked this question or worse still, asking it? I run my own small business and I often get asked are you busy?
I’m never quite sure how to respond. If I say no, will they think I am a failed business owner even though I have a steady but manageable stream of work, which doesn’t fit into my criteria of being busy? If I say yes because that is what I think I should say, will they be patting me on the back congratulating me for being stressed and close to burnout. So why am I being asked this question?
Perhaps they want to compare my state of busyness with theirs so they feel smug when they discover that their ever-decreasing circles are spinning faster than mine?
Does my response “yes” or “I’m flat out” indicate to them that I am successful that things are going well for me.
What happens if I haven’t been busy, if I have taken things more sedately, smelled the roses, gone for a walk. What will they think of me? Will they snort to themselves and shake their heads, disappointed on my behalf that I’m…well… not busy!
Busyness is not a badge of honour, though we often treat it as one.
Busyness it not a sign of success. We can be busy being busy and achieve very little. Busy does not mean we are making something of our lives. In fact, often it means we are losing ourselves, our relationships, our mental health.
Rob Bell says that busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to. And I think he’s right.
Are we busy for ourselves or for the impression we want to give other people? A bit like keeping up with the Joneses. Busy does not always mean productive. Lao Tzu says that “doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”
So perhaps when you are chatting with a colleague, or networking or catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while (probably because you have been too busy), think of a different question you can ask them. A question that might allow for some honesty around your state of well-being.
‘What have you been up to lately’
‘How are you enjoying your job’?
‘I hear you have been on a trip, launching a new product, got a new job, playing a new sport…’
My first challenge for you is next time you are having a conversation with someone, don’t ask if they have been busy. Try asking a question that might get a more meaningful answer—a question that shows you are interested in who they are and what is going on for them.
My second challenge is when someone asks you what have you been up to, don’t say I’ve been so busy! It won’t come easily at first. We have programmed our responses to roll this out. But try and come up with an answer that is real, expressive and engaging. An answer that builds rapport and relationships.
Once you start, you will soon get the hang of it and be nicely surprised at how more meaningful your communication is.