Several years ago I read an article, can’t remember too much about it, but the one point that stuck with me is the generic response to “How are you?” is “Busy”. The author pointed out that that’s not a very good answer, and I’ve taken note of it every time I’ve given that answer since. A few weeks ago another article popped up on one of my feeds, with a similar message. And every time I give the answer (and I find myself doing it regularly) I kick myself, and then try expound.
But being busy isn’t a bad thing (I’ve even written about it before). The problem is when telling someone you’re busy, it doesn’t mean anything. Everyone’s busy, always. Except when you’re not, but that’s like never, right? I make time for the things I want to do (or feel compelled to do). It’s about prioritising. I do this at work all the time, however there it’s aligning your priorities with your manager’s.
Being ‘busy’ is an offhand comment we give to appease the masses. I don’t really care if you’re busy or not. I want to know if you’re well. If you’re having trouble. If you’re happy. If I can help. It’s become customary to accept being ‘busy’ as an answer; no one bats an eye. It’s like being fine. You’re as fine as you are busy.
If I’m busy I feel like I’m working effectively. And that kind of attitude carries over into my personal life. Don’t get me wrong, I spend a fair amount of time doing non-value adding things like browsing Reddit and watching Youtube videos, I have lots of time I could be spending ‘achieving’ something, but I still feel busy. As long as we’re not doing nothing, we’re busy. And so it adds to the lack of meaning in the word.
Are you busy because you have been given lots of work? Are you keeping yourself busy? Why are you busy?
So what is an acceptable way to reply? I get it, saying you’re busy or you’re fine has it’s places. It’s great in impersonal communication with acquaintances. You’ve only been asked out of politeness and custom, it’s a nice answer that doesn’t have to trigger an in depth discussion. But when it’s someone close to you, when it’s someone you care about, don’t say you’re busy, they don’t care if you’re busy.