Dec 02

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Reading & Vocabulary – Want to keep your friends? Then don’t use this word!

Useful advice about what to say when you are too busy to hang out with (=spend time with) your friends, but you want to show them that you care about them and they are important!

Level: B2 (intermediate and above)



Want to keep your friends? Then Don’t use this word!


There’s this word that you probably use all the time. It’s a seemingly harmless word — close to meaningless, really — but it’s slowly, but surely tainting (=here: have a bad effect on) your relationships.

Look back over any recent texts and emails you’ve sent to friends. If they look something like this, you’re caught in this word’s trap (= something that is difficult to get out of, a pitfall, snag, or trick):

“I’d love to hang out! But I’m really busy.”
“Sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier! I’ve been so busy.”
“What’s going on with me? Just busy as usual!”

You guessed it. The single-word saboteur is BUSY.

It’s driving your friends away (=makes your friends go away from you), and it’s time to eliminate (=get rid of, throw away) it from your social vocabulary.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with actually being busy: People can certainly have many obligations and still

maintain (= keep up) great relationships. And it’s not being busy that drives people away; it’s the word itself.

Let’s discuss the top three reasons it’s time to be done with “busy”… and three ways to replace it with (= change it to) something better.

1. Everyone is busy.

These days, saying you’re busy is basically like saying you’re alive.

Being busy may once have been an indicator of importance; it may once have implied (= wanted to say, meant) that many people and projects relied on you. Now, it’s a filler word that can be applied to any situation: You could be 10 years into your job and be “busy.” You could be between jobs (= be without a job, unemployed)  and be “busy.” You could be vacationing and be “busy.” The word itself no longer relates to any specific, making it basically meaningless — and meaningless language is a problem for relationships because it doesn’t help other people understand what, specifically, you’re going through. It actually impedes (=slow down, cut off, interfere with) mutual understanding.

2. It’s open to (negative) interpretation.

The vague nature of “I’m really busy” leaves the real reason why you’re being unavailable to a friend open to interpretation. While many people will accept “being busy” as enough of a reason for not hanging out the first few times you use it, eventually friends will see it as a veil over a more sinister (= very bad) reason for staying away: Maybe you don’t like them anymore and are too afraid to say it.

In other words, “busy” allows others to fill in the blank of your true intentions. Often, they will fill that blank with a negative assumption. In a worst-case scenario, friends may feel like your “busy” is a way of blowing them off (= getting rid of them) without having to state a reason for doing so.

3. It means “not right now.”

Often, “busy” simply means that you have higher priorities (= more important things to do) right now than seeing friends (= spending time with friends, hanging out together) — which is totally fine. You may be caring for a child or launching a new product; there are lots of legitimate reasons why friendships fall down one’s list of priorities. The issue is that “being busy” doesn’t communicate any of that.

Three better options:

All that being said, just because “busy” is not a word that generates closeness, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate the same thing in a way that does. Here are some tips for telling your friends you just can’t right now, without hurting their feelings:

1. Be more specific

Let’s say you invite a friend to your birthday party and she writes back: “I’d love to but I’m really busy!”

But what if she had written: “I’d love to but Jack has a karate competition that evening and he specifically asked me to watch him this time. Have some champagne for me, though!”

Feel the difference? The second message explains your friend’s reasoning, gives context, and communicates that she’s still invested in your happiness. The first message, frankly, is a blow-off (= a message that shows that you don’t care about someone and don’t want to spend time with them).

2. Set a time frame.

If you’re busy because of an especially difficult crunch time (= a find a little time) either at work or at home, it’s helpful to make your friends aware of just how long this “busy” time will last. For example, if you know your project will wrap up in a month and your schedule will open up soon after, communicate your desire to reconnect with everyone then. Even if that month turns into two, your friends will appreciate that you expressed the desire to be together again as soon as possible.

3. Determine if you need to have a difficult conversation.

And now, it’s time to confront the dark side of “busy.” As we all know, “being busy” can be a method by which we disengage from a relationship (= break up a relationship) we no longer want to have. The kids call it “ghosting” — distancing yourself from a relationship without ever explaining why. If you’re using “busy” in this way, it’s worth determining if you need to have that difficult conversation with the person you’re ghosting. While it’s always uncomfortable to “break up” with a friend, some friendships deserve this attention. In some cases, it’ll cause great sadness to both parties to “busy” a friendship to death.

Read the full article

Source: yahoo news original article by Kira Asatryan


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