What Our Busyness Communicates

This post was written by Hannah Morris, Director of Assessment & Advancement at The Latimer Group.  

At some point or another, we’ve all probably shared an exhausted statement of how busy we are.

The reality is that when we are scheduled with meetings back-to-back throughout our workday or have an unending list of deliverables, it is hard not to call attention to it – or at the very least verbalize it.

We know that transparency is an important part of authenticity and trust building. We want to be real, honest, and open with our colleagues.

But we need to tread cautiously here. What we express can easily be interpreted differently than we intend.

Each time we share “My schedule is packed.” or “I am booked solid this week.”, we are communicating more than our calendar. We are highlighting to our audience a lack of capacity beyond what is already on our plate.

Sometimes that is what we intend to communicate, but what we don’t realize is how it can get interpreted and impact the behavior of those around us.

If we are more junior in the organization, others could interpret this as, “I don’t have time for other opportunities.” or “I am just barely capable of managing my current load.” We could get passed over for something we would really want to take on. We could even take a slight hit to our credibility and perceived potential. This could be especially counterproductive if one of the reasons we were working so hard was to showcase our talent, ability, and value.

If we are more senior in the organization, especially if we are in a leadership role, others could interpret this as, “I don’t have time for you.” or “Don’t come to me with your problems right now.” This could cause disconnection and disengagement. Our teams could become less transparent with us and not come to us with questions or concerns. Instead of bringing our attention to mistakes or issues, they may shelter us from them.

On a personal note, this is true when we get home to our families or go out with our friends, too. “What an exhausting day.” can sound a lot like “Don’t bother me.” It can stifle conversations and dampen enthusiasm, which, over time, can limit our relationships.

But it is avoidable.

While it is hard to be fully present in both environments when both our professional and personal lives are full, showing up the way we want to starts with simply being more aware. Being more conscious about these statements and their impact, helps us avoid communication gaps and become more intentional in how we share.

And when we slip up, because we undoubtedly will, we can follow up with a statement of “But I am really eager to hear about the project you are working on.” Or “And now I am very excited to hear the trumpet solo you’ve been practicing.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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One response to “What Our Busyness Communicates”

  1. Melissa Birdno says:

    Excellent point – I appreciate the reminder! I’ve often found myself feeling overtaxed, and I’ve heard myself say to my kids, “not now, I’ve just got so much work to do.” But I hadn’t considered the underlying messaging it conveys.

    Next time, I’ll try: “…but, I’m ready to listen now”

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Hannah Morris

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.