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The Harsh But True Meaning Behind Every “I Don’t Have Time”

The Harsh But True Meaning Behind Every “I Don’t Have Time”

How often have you heard the line “Sorry, I just don’t have time” in response to you suggesting an activity to a friend or asking for help? Perhaps you’ve said this yourself to other people. While it could be genuinely true for many, the harsh reality is that it’s not usually entirely the case.

The Real Truth Behind “I Don’t Have Time”

If we get this response, we usually give the person the benefit of the doubt – after all who are we to question how much time they really have? But at the back of our mind, we often wonder if we’ve just been given a quick and easy excuse. The only reason we do doubt it is because we’ve most likely given this excuse ourselves at some point. So what can it really mean?

  • I genuinely have a lot to do and I can’t realistically fit it in: For many of us, we take on far too much and although we would like to help or do something with someone, we feel stressed when there’s a lot on our plate already.
  • I have more important things to do than doing that with you: This sounds harsh but sometimes other, more important priorities, can take over at any particular time.
  • I don’t have anything to do but I don’t want to do that anyway: It’s cold but sometimes a person isn’t in the mood, is tired or what you’ve suggested doesn’t appeal to them. Perhaps in that moment, they were looking forward to hanging out on the couch with a good book and a glass of wine but feel a bit mean admitting that they’d prefer that to hanging out with you.
  • I don’t have anything to do but I don’t want to explain why I can’t do that: Sometimes it’s easier to tell a white lie than to have to explain why you don’t want to do something with someone. Maybe you’re not in the mood or you actually don’t like hanging out with that person much. It’s usually a quick instinctive reaction to get out of it easily with no awkward questions.

Even though the underlying reasons behind this response can seem harsh, we can all admit that we can relate to at least one of them.

Question the Common Lie

About 90% of the time, if you hear this it’s most likely a lie. But this isn’t going to be shocking to us because we all know it. Yet we usually let it pass without question when someone says it to us. However, instead of dismissing this common lie, perhaps we should consider what it really means for our friendships and relationships with others.

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You are a low priority. Is this really the basis of a good relationship with someone if they continually imply that you’re not high priority in their life? Relationships take effort on both sides so if you’re both using this excuse a lot then it may be time to question it.

You aren’t getting the respect you deserve. We are all worthy of good relationships with friends, family and loved ones and we deserve respect. Ask yourself why you aren’t getting that. Do they really value you as an important person in their life?

They can’t be truthful with you. A real friend will tell you they have other plans and won’t want to lie to you. They’ll go to lengths to make it up to you, arrange another time because they want to spend time with you. If they feel they need to lie then there could be an underlying problem.

The Damage of This Well-Known Lie

Of course, we’re also guilty of using this excuse. But what does it say about ourselves, our integrity and outlook on the relationships in our life?

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Deep down we all know the meaning behind why we say it – whether we hear it from others or use it ourselves. But just because we don’t openly admit what it really means, doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact. It gives people an unsaid impression of you that builds up over time and can damage potential close relationships or break close bonds.

The most common thoughts people have when they hear “I don’t have time” tend to be:

  • “You’re so bad at organising what you’re doing that you can’t manage your time well.”
  • “What an arrogant person you are that you don’t even bother telling me the real reason why you can’t do it.”
  • “This person clearly doesn’t respect our relationship, and now I’m starting to lose respect for them.”

Make Time, or Tell the Truth

At the end of the day, it’s all about priority. We all know that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day – it’s more about our mindset and how we choose to organise our time. We all have the choice to either make time for something or not.

The key is to ditch the excuses and be honest. Explain why you don’t have time because although this could come across as harsh, it’s no more harsh than the impact of people wondering what the real reason is and diminishing respect on both sides.

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Tell them it’s not your priority

That’s right, it’s difficult to admit and say, isn’t it? But being honest in this way is laying it out there. Our time is a limited resource and there’s no point pretending it’s not. Yes it may come across harsh but at least it’s honesty rather than the other person feeling they’ve been fobbed off with an excuse which could ultimately cause more damage.

Follow up with a reason

The best thing to do is explain why in order to lessen the harsh reality. This will cause the person to understand your position a bit better and will have less negative impact on your relationship in the long run.

Arrange an alternative

Always try to carve out another time to make them a priority. If you want to cultivate your relationships, it’s important to show them that they can be a priority to you, just not right now.

An example of this could be: a friend has asked you if you would come along next Friday night to check out her new exhibition. You probably could go technically, but you’ve been putting off sorting out your CV and job search for a while and you need to start prioritizing this. Instead of simply saying sorry, you don’t have time, explain your priorities, wish her luck and arrange a coffee date later in the week to find out how it went.

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Remember that this common excuse can be more damaging than you realize. If you find you use it a lot, it might be time to start questioning your values towards friendships and relationships with others. Start being more honest. It could save your integrity and connection with the important people in your life.

Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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