We are all guilty of this. Someone asks us how we are doing. We respond with, “Not bad. Just busy.” Or, “Work is really busy right now.”
Sure you are busy—we all are—but saying you are busy may be hurting your relationships and your professional image. There are two types of communication, transactional communication and relational communication. Transactional communication is used to get things done: you present at a sales meeting, you ask a friend for a ride to the airport, you order a coffee. Relational communication is used to build relationships. In the US, this happens most frequently through small talk.
When someone asks how you are doing, it is relational communication. The conversation that follows is an important opportunity to start a friendship, build trust, or cultivate a working relationship. Saying you are busy at these moments shuts down communication and limits opportunities for the conversation to grow into something meaningful.
If your goal is to be left alone, then tell people you are busy. If your goal is to get ahead, spend a few minutes engaging in these conversations. Say something interesting, something positive about your work. If you do this, your working relationships will be stronger, and people will understand what you do rather than that you are too busy to talk about it.
Ovient has been helping Silicon Valley communicate since 2006. Not satisfied with how people communicate at your company? We can help.