You’re at the airport, heading on a last minute business trip. You’re distracted, mulling over the meeting agenda. Another part of your brain is angsting over what you’ve forgotten in your haste.
Waiting in the security line, you notice an acquaintance standing nearby. It’s someone you’ve had a couple of intriguing conversations with, and you’re curious about getting to know him better.
He makes eye contact, then asks, warmly, “What’s up?”
Without even thinking, you blurt, “I’m soooo busy!”
(Sound familiar? I’ve done it plenty of times.)
But here’s what happens next:
Without a pause, your acquaintance replies, “I know! I’m soooo busy, too.” And you both stand there, nodding, with no place to go in the conversation.
And this is a person you actually want a relationship with!
Recent research shows that on average, it takes about 50 hours of quality time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you feel comfortable upgrading them to just "friend," and around 200 hours before you'd consider the two of you to be close.
So, every encounter matters on the way to making a friend!
Wouldn’t it be great to have a repertoire of genuine responses, even in distracting circumstances? Responses that strengthen the connection with someone you want to know better without a lot of effort?
Read on for some simple ways to substitute “I’m soooo busy” with something richer.
What Else to Do
There’s a time and place for deep conversation. But is it possible to keep a relationship building, even when you’re rushed or distracted? I believe it is.
Here are three possibilities:
“I’m excited about”…. Maybe you’ve started a new hobby, just finished your first 5K race or are about to take a long overdue vacation. This approach works best if you have a few minutes. It’s likely to provoke a conversation, especially if you’re passionate. At a workshop, I mentioned to an acquaintance that I was thrilled to be creating art photographs with my cell phone. It turned out she was a professional photographer and had lots of great advice. We ended up having lunch together afterwards!
Honest acknowledgment of your current state, “It’s great to see you. I’m afraid I’m a little distracted now, a last minute business trip came up,” followed by an inquiry about the person. “Where are you headed?” This is authentically distracted but still lets the other person know you’re interested in them. And you’re off the hook if you really need to keep moving.
Superficial response, then ask the other person a question about them. I did this with my landscaper whom I hadn’t seen since September. I was running late for an appointment but wanted to talk briefly with him. He asked a global question, like “What’s been going on?” Not wanting to go into detail, I chose to comment on how glad I was that winter was over (superficial, huh?). But I followed up with a question about skiing because I knew he loves to ski.
None of these are conversational breakthroughs but they are alternatives to blurting out what has become an automatic response for many of us.
Just Make a Start
“Okay,” you think, “These all seem like doable suggestions.”
But do you feel a smidge of resistance? Maybe the responses seem too canned. Or you’ve got a lot on your plate already and the idea of trying out a new behavior makes you want to crawl back to bed.
That’s all right. I understand.
But remember, even short conversations can help build connections and forge new friendships.
So, here’s all I ask: Next time you find yourself saying, “I’m so busy,” make eye contact and reply, "And how are you?"
Isn't that the connection you’re yearning for?