Busy-ness as usual

By Kevin Karn


The word “busy” is not an adjective to describe a person; it is a frame of mind. And that is exactly where the word should stay. When people say, “I am busy,” or “It’s been busy,” there is an assumption that their time is valued much higher than that of the person they are speaking with. This eliminates any possibility of developing deeper conversation because initially there has already been an inherent time limit established as well as a hierarchy of importance.

The issue is not whether people can have busy lives, it is about the way in which they express it and how certain word choices can foster conversations while others will extinguish them. The term “busy” is the ultimate conversation destroyer and yet possibly the most common word I have heard on campus. Consider this generic student conversation:
Guy: Hey! How’s it going?

Girl: Good. How are you?

Guy: Good. How’s your semester going?

Girl. Not bad, just really busy.

Guy: Yeah I know what you mean, same here…

Girl: Oh okay cool, well I’ll see you around.

I hope that conversation is as exhausting to read as it is to hear. Quite frankly, I am not sure why either one would wish to talk to the other again. There is nothing wrong with the conversation, except for a glaring irony. The guy essentially turns the conversation into a waste of time by stating that he is pressed for time. One would think that someone who values their time so much would actually want their conversations to be meaningful and insightful, but it is usually not the case.

So how do we escape this vexed cycle of empty conversation? By using phrases that invite dialogue. Rather than say that you have been busy, explicitly describe all that has been occupying your time. Talk about a difficult class that you have. Bring up the TV show you watched until 3 a.m. There is a good chance that the person you speak to will either be able to relate to something you bring up or at the very least ask questions about it. At this point, the layers of each other start to get peeled back and you can actually get to know someone.

Now, I get it. There are a ton of people on campus and you cannot be best friends with them all. But you certainly can try. Each person has their own beautiful and unique story to tell and we all have an opportunity to make this small school a little smaller. We just have to stop being so busy.