“I’d love to do that, but I don’t have the time.”
This is a lie we tell ourselves according to Steve Chandler in his book 37 Ways to Boost Your Coaching Practice.
As I read this quote, I thought of this week’s “weekly prompt” at Thrive Global and of the coffee date I had arranged with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Somehow, she had drifted out of my life. When we bumped into each other, she seemed genuinely happy to see me and I was happy to see her. That got me thinking, It would be nice to catch up and reconnect. So I texted her, asking if she wanted to hang out, reconnect, get a coffee, or take a walk. “I’d love to,” she texted, “I’ll check my calendar when I get home”. That was on Monday. By Thursday, when I hadn’t heard back, I followed up. Of course I did; that was my usual MO.
Her text confirmed that she could meet me for twenty minutes the following Monday. 20 minutes. Wow! What a gift!
My initial reaction was a little bit of hurt and a bruised ego. But I took a breath. “She has kids, a husband and a business that keep her super busy.” I told myself. “Don’t take it personally, “
I took another breath, smiled and confirmed with a heart emoji.
It was two days later that I read Steve Chandler’s explanation for the I don’t have the time lie:
“If I’d love to do it, I would do it. So it’s not really true that I’d love to do it . . . THIS IS THE TRUTH: I have chosen not to prioritize it.”
I ALREADY KNEW THIS. In fact, I had a history of knowing this. I looked back at some of my other friendships with women and how I felt as if I were the ballast on the sea saw, always the one reaching out, making the plans, trying to find the time to get together. And when I stopped making that effort, the relationships dissolved.
This was just another example. I had already let go of this friend, no longer sending invitations that were declined with I’ll try, or I’d love to but I’ve got too much going on.
I’m not upset that my friend didn’t make me a priority. Some friendships are meant to last, others aren’t. In the end, this little exchange was really a gift. I got to see my own need for approval, or attention, or flattery and how I had a habit of overdoing it, taking on more responsibility in my friendships than I should. And when I was honest with myself, I was able to realize, I’m happier when I extend my friendship wisely.
We’ve all been there, received the I’m too busy response only to see our friend, smiling, with a group of girlfriends in our Facebook feed the very next day.
I used to get upset. But now I know that when someone says they are too busy, they aren’t telling the truth. I also know that I’m not telling myself the truth. The truth for me is there are so many things I can be doing in that space of 20 minutes rather than being with someone who feels obligated to say yes to me.
And the truth is, I’m busy too. I can take that 20 minutes to be of service. As a coach that’s what I do. I love the business of being in service. And if I’m going to continue to build my practice, I have to be careful with my time. As does my friend.
I’m too busy. We all say it. We all make choices. We all prioritize. So when it happens that your friend chooses busy-ness instead of seeing you, here’s what I recommend.