Want to know what to respond when someone says they’ve been busy?
It’s frustrating when you’re trying to get through to someone or you’ve been waiting for them to get back to you.
Only for them to say “Sorry, I’ve been busy!”
Are they really too busy to drop you a message? Does ‘busy’ really mean busy?
Here’s what it usually means when someone says they’ve been busy and how you should respond to them:
10 Things It Could Mean When Someone Says They’ve ‘Been Busy’
Let’s be honest, if someone hasn’t been getting back to you and they say they’ve been too busy, they haven’t been too busy to send you a quick text.
Being ‘busy’ is often just a quick answer to cover the real reason why someone hasn’t been in contact.
Here are 10 of the most common real reasons why someone hasn’t been in contact with you:
1. They’re Avoiding You for Some Reason
If someone is avoiding you, they will rarely tell you that they are and will say something like ‘I’ve been busy’ instead.
I can’t tell you why they’re avoiding you; maybe there is something you said or did that they’re not happy with and they don’t want to speak to you about it.
If you think this might be the case, try asking them directly if there’s something they want to talk about and see where that goes.
2. They’re Dealing with Some Personal Issues
If someone is dealing with personal issues, they might not want to burden you with their problems and so will say they’ve been busy instead.
If you suspect this is the case and they’re a good friend, I’d use this opportunity to try and get them to open up and see if you can give them some support.
Don’t be offended if they don’t want to open up, if they haven’t been in contact it sounds like they want some space.
3. They’ve Actually Been Busy
You can rule out that they actually have been busy – and that’s why they’d say so!
It’s no excuse not to contact you at all or not make an effort to see you though, but some people don’t deal with the stress of being busy well.
You could try and make them commit to a time to hang out or tell them a quick message here and there would go a miss!
4. They Just Didn’t Prioritize Getting Back to You
It doesn’t feel good to think that you’re low down on someone’s list of priorities, but this is one explanation.
You might not be as important to them as they are to you and that’s okay!
If you want to try and change this, see if you can find out things that are important to them and try and work around that.
5. They Had Completely Forgotten to Get Back to You
This happens to the best of us!
Sometimes we just forget to get back to someone and it’s a bit embarrassing coming up with a reason when we’re asked where we’ve been.
If you think this is the case, send them a reminder message or give them a call instead.
6. They Don’t Want to Tell You What They’ve Been Up To
This is a bit of a strange one, but when asked, some people just don’t want to share what they’ve been up to.
It could be that they don’t want to be seen as bragging, don’t think you’ll be interested, or just can’t be bothered to get into it.
If you think this is the case it’s best to just give them space and not press them over it.
7. They’re Just Fobbing You Off With A Quick Answer
If you want to feel better about everything, this is probably the best explanation!
When we don’t want to give someone a proper answer or we’re not sure what to say, ‘I’ve been busy’ is the perfect go-to response.
It’s not the nicest explanation and obviously, it leads to some curiosity as we’re dealing with here, but it just comes naturally to some people.
8. They’re Avoiding Someone You’re Usually With
If you’ve been asking someone to hang out and they’ve been making excuses saying they’re too busy, it might not be you they’re avoiding.
Are you usually hanging out with someone else that they might be avoiding?
It’s worth thinking about. It may even be that they just prefer to see you one-on-one.
9. They’ve Been Ill but Don’t Want to Talk About It
If someone has been ill, they might not want to burden you with the details or maybe they’re too embarrassed to talk about it.
No one likes to keep on repeating the details about an illness or injury, so telling you they’ve ‘been busy’ is an easy way out.
No one likes to ask what someone has been up to when they say they’ve been busy as they assume it’s going to be boring!
10. They Want You to Think that They’re Busy
Some people like to give off the impression that they’re really busy – almost like saying, ‘I’m important’ or ‘I’m in demand’.
Maybe they have been busy, or maybe they haven’t. For some people it just makes them feel important.
You could try asking them what they’ve been doing that’s been keeping them so busy and seeing what they say.
What to Respond When Someone Says They’ve Been Busy
The reason why most people say they’ve been busy is because they don’t want you to probe them and ask what they’ve been up to.
‘Busy’ gives off the impression that they’ve been working or doing something equally as boring, otherwise they’d say what they’ve been up to, right?
That said, some people will want you to ask them what they’ve been so busy doing so they can open up.
The best answer is to read the situation, take into account the context and person in question, and make your best judgment.
As for what you can reply when someone says they’ve ‘been busy’, you could simply say something like:
- That sounds crazy! What have you been up to?
- I hope you’re enjoying your busy-ness! Tell me more about what you’ve been up to.
- Being busy is good! It means you’re productive and doing something with your time. What have you been up to?
- Ahh! I’m curious, what have you been up to?
- Sounds like you’ve had a lot going on, I’m keen to hear more about it!
Whatever you do, don’t say something like:
- Oh, that sounds boring.
- How are you too busy to get back to me?
- What’s keeping you so busy that you can’t make time for your friends?
These responses will likely shut the person down and they’ll be less likely to want to tell you what they’ve been up to.
If you want to know what someone has really been up to, it’s best to just ask them directly and give them the opportunity to tell you as much or as little as they want.
Image credits – Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.