Ban “Busy” (And What We Should Say Instead)

I feel like I’m hearing a common theme lately when it comes to workplace conversation– can you spot it?

“I’m so busy.”

“I have so much going on.”

“My calendar is insane right now!”

It’s all about the new b-word: busy.

Talking about being busy is the new talking about being tired. It’s filler language for when we don’t know what else to say. Think about how many times you respond with “busy!” when someone asks how things are going. If you don’t say “busy!” maybe you respond with “I’m so tired!” The most common words we use to describe our lives are either “tired” or “busy” that should tell us something.

There are a few problems with complaining about your busy schedule, the first of which is no one cares. Talking about how busy we are is perhaps the most uninteresting thing we could be discussing. We may as well be talking about the dream you had last night, your Euchre hand (hi, Midwest readers!), or your workout regimen (unless you fell off the treadmill or hit someone in the face with a hand weight. Then I would like to hear about it!) I would rather hear about your entire report from Ancestry.com then talk about all of the items on your to-do list. Because we’re all busy. We’re just trying to keep up with Kelly Ripa.

The second problem with “busy” is that incessantly using that word normalizes a culture in which  our calendar is packed to the gills. The more my coworkers complain about being busy, the more guilty I feel about taking 30 minutes out of my day to enjoy my lunch– something we all should be doing, by the way, if we have any hope of being as awesome as Kelly Ripa.

The third problem with airing out your busy schedule is that it doesn’t make you seem all that relatable. People don’t connect to you because you are busy, important, and in high demand all of the time. They connect to you because you aren’t sure how to proceed on this project, you want advice on a direction you’re taking, or you’re in a sugar-drought rage because the office is out of Jelly Bellys– the more vulnerable, open, and far more interesting parts of your day. So, if you want friends at work– and we all know how important friends are— stop complaining about being busy and start talking about any one of these things instead:

-The project you’re most excited about working on

-The project you’re finding most challenging

-Something that happened to you over the weekend

-The TV show you are currently binge watching (If you need suggestions, go here.)

Your workout (Ha! Just kidding. Still don’t want to hear it.)

-An article you read that you found interesting

-The secret to being as fab as Kelly Ripa

-Whatever is going on with the person you’re talking to. It’s not always about you!

We’ve (almost) banned two other b-words in the workplace: “bossy” is one, the second I shan’t be printing because my grandma reads this now. Now it’s time for the third: ban busy from your work vocabulary, be more fabulous, and get promoted faster.*

*Not scientifically proven.

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