I’m sorry, I’ve been too busy!

There are few things, in the ordinary course of life, that annoy me more than someone saying ‘I’m sorry, I’ve been too busy to reply.’

You hear this or read this when you’ve waited far longer than is reasonable for a reply to a letter, an email, a phone call or something similar. It’s usually untrue. It’s almost never the real reason for the delay. What it really means is ‘I had more important things to do.’ Nothing so terribly wrong if that really is the truth, but why not say so? Probably because the ‘more important thing’ is very often nothing at all.

busy

We all know that it really doesn’t take long to return a call or to reply to an email or a letter. If we don’t reply, it’s because we don’t want to. But do it immediately and you won’t have to think about it again the next time you go through your emails, or the next time, or the next time. It’s almost always more efficient to deal with something straight away. (It’s risky, of course, if too much emotion takes control of you, but that’s another thing.) In any case, emails and calls take just a few minutes, and if you really are hard-pressed for time, you can simply say that you’ll reply later, but soon.

If, as in the minority of cases, saying ‘I’ve been too busy,’ is true, it actually means that there were more important things to do than replying to your friend or colleague, every minute of every day since you heard from them, and surely that’s actually a pretty offensive thing to say.

When I think about the way I go through my emails, I realise that whilst I try to respond almost immediately when I can, there are occasions when I don’t and the reason is usually one of these:

  • I need some more information before I can usefully reply
  • I’m just not interested in the person who sent me the email and I feel no obligation to be particularly polite
  • The subject is boring and I know I have to reply in tedious detail
  • I don’t yet know what I think
  • I’m going to disappoint, anger or hurt the person who sent me the email

These are some of the real reasons. It’s nothing to do with ‘I’m too busy’. I just don’t want to reply.

But there are better and less offensive ways of dealing with these cases, all of them involving a short and more honest  immediate reply:

  • I need some more information before I can usefully reply

My advice: Reply and say you need to do more research. Set a deadline.

  • I’m just not interested in the person who sent me the email and I feel no obligation to be particularly polite

My advice: Write a short and moderately polite reply immediately

  • The subject is boring and I know I have to reply in tedious detail

My advice: Say you’ll reply later, but better, actually, just to get it done. You’ll feel a lot better immediately.

  • I don’t yet know what I think

My advice: Say so immediately, and reply more decisively as soon as you can

  • I’m going to disappoint, anger or hurt the person who sent me the email

My advice: Just get on with it.

So, if I write to you, don’t say you’re too busy to reply! I’ll know it’s not really true.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “I’m sorry, I’ve been too busy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s