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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 Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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