Every time someone responds to my ‘how are you’ question with a ‘crazy busy’ answer, I feel my anxiety rise. Is it catchy? Is there no rest for anyone? Is everyone stressed out? Exhausted? Dead tired?
OK, it’s a fact that we are all busy. And no matter how many books of ideas we read about how to manage our time and strive for a more simple life, we will probably continue to be busy. However, when I ask you how you are, I actually want to know how you are and I hope you won’t default to what appears to be the trendy rhetoric of extreme busyness. Although it’s a small step, I think that we can give ourselves a bit of relief from the stress of busyness by responding differently when someone asks how we are. Because we are so accustomed to hearing the busy answer, it is quite refreshing to hear someone say they are well, or that they are happy, or even that they are sad or struggling.
When I hear myself responding to ‘How are you” with the ‘so busy’ answer, I have this nagging feeling that it is my ego that’s speaking and that maybe I am actually hiding self-congratulation behind protestations of extreme activity. When I examine my need to assure myself and others that I am busy, am I really saying “Look at me, I’m successful because I’m busy”, or, “I must be successful because every minute of every day is chockfull of important things to do?”
I also realize that if I actually am too busy, I’ve probably made some choices that contribute to that state and maybe I need to think about how I work instead of playing the too busy card. Could I delegate a few things? Have I been procrastinating on some projects? Is my to-do list realistic? Have I taken something on when I should have said no?
Because I feel myself getting anxious when others declare they are too busy, I am trying to reframe my own answers to the ‘how are you’ question. I’ve been trying to say something honest and simple like “I’m well, thank you” or “Life is good.” To be honest, sometimes I forget and revert to the busy answer, but the more I resist that common response, the more in control I feel.
As a non-profit leader who is no doubt really busy, could you lower your own stress by reframing your responses to the ‘How are you?’ question? Send us a note and let us know if you have a better response. We’d love to share your thoughts with our readers.