Motivation, What I Mean When I Say

“I Can’t, I’m Busy”

What do I mean when I say, “I’m busy”? It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But it’s not quite all that it seems. The main deal is that I say this phrase a lot. A lot. Lots of people use this phrase too. The problem is, when you are constantly facing this phrase, it can start to sound like someone doesn’t enjoy your company or doesn’t like you. Well, I promise you this. If you’ve heard me saying “I can’t, I’m busy” I do still like you. I’m just..well. Busy.

It makes enough sense that if I’m too busy to hang out, help out, or visit that I would say that. But what doesn’t make sense is how I can be busy all the time. I mean, I have to take some time for myself, right? There has to be an opening in my schedule somewhere? Yes, there is. And we’ll get to that. But before we do, let’s look at what I don’t mean when I say I’m busy.

I don’t mean I don’t like you.

I do get where this is coming from, especially if I keep dodging hanging out with this phrase. Truth be told, I use this phrase instead of an explanation. We’ll get to that too. But rest assured, I do still like you. I’m not mad at you. I’m not bored of your company.

I don’t want to see you.

This goes along with the first one but it’s a tad bit different. My answer to this is pretty similar too…I do want to see you. Sometimes life gets chaotic and relationships are strong enough to hold off on hanging out. Most of the time, when I say I can’t, I’m busy I do actually want to see you! It just might not seem like it because I’m saying “no”.

I think I’m better than you.

This one is sad and one that I have unfortunately run into. Not hanging out with some does not imply that they think they are better than you now. Even if it comes after a job change, a streak of good luck, or something else it doesn’t mean that someone believes they are any better than you. Just because I choose not to hang out with on one particular day does not mean that I think I’m too good to hang out with you.

I must be depressed.

A slightly self-centered point of view, sometimes, not hanging out with someone makes them think that you’re depressed. Now, if you do believe that someone is staying in because they are depressed please ask them. Look at their behavior as a whole, not just as one part of their life. In your conversations with them, ask about their mental health. Ask if they’d be more comfortable with you coming to them.

That being said, if someone doesn’t want to hang out for a while it doesn’t mean that they’ve tumbled into a depression. It has the potential to mean the exact opposite of that. Maybe that someone is finally engaging in other activities, getting out or doing this more often. Maybe they are relaxing more, taking care of their mental health and not overworking and overbooking themselves.

new york times square
Photo by Owen Barker on

Okay, so we’ve asserted some of the things I don’t mean when I say “I’m busy”. Let’s look at what I might mean instead. The operative question here, as we move forward is this: What am I busy with?


This one always seems rude and it’s part of why the phrase “I’m busy” is one of my favorites. It’s rude to tell someone “I can’t hang out because I’m relaxing”. We live in a society that does not prioritize relaxation and mental health which means that when you tell someone this, there’s a strong chance they’ll react negatively. They question if they’re important to you. They question, “Well if you have time to relax, you have time to hang out with me” and this leads to all the other problems of them thinking you don’t like them.

As individuals, it’s extremely important to remember this:

We are not entitled to anyone’s time.

No matter how much we might think we might be, we are not entitled to anyone’s time. They can choose to do whatever they want with it. If they want to relax, then they can. If they want to sleep, work, or exercise they can do that too. And as individuals, it’s also important to recognize that we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) feel guilty for how we choose to spend our time.

As well, relaxation is necessary. Not enough people treat it as something that needs to get done in the day. But it is. And it should be put on that “To-Do” list. Let’s keep this in our head too. Relaxation is non-optional for a lot of people. This becomes especially true as we work to improve our mental health. We need downtime. And we need downtime that isn’t just one week of vacation. We as a society need to begin to understand and respect this.


Sometimes, I just can’t. I’ve had a long week, didn’t sleep well, or just want to take it easy and maybe sneak in a nap. This is important to remember too. We need to learn to stop when we’re tired. Burning out should be prevented at all costs. Lucky for you I’ve already talked about that.

auditorium chairs comfortable concert
Photo by Pixabay on

Doing something else.

Well, sometimes I am doing something else. But not that day. And telling you I’m busy tomorrow so I can’t hang out today doesn’t sound too logical. I get that.

As an introvert who leads a very busy life, packing my extra hours full of activity stresses me out, big time. Knowing that I won’t have a lot of time to decompress can stress me out to the point that I don’t enjoy all of the activities. I’m someone who can handle one or two extra outings every so often. But not something every day or every weekend.


Sometimes it comes down to this and this is no way to phrase this politely. If I see you are very excited about something, like climbing a mountain, going swimming, or going shopping and (for one reason or another) I’m not comfortable with that idea, I’ll let you do it with someone else and pass the opportunity by.

For instance, let’s say I’m not in a place where I have lots of money. Going shopping will kinda suck for me. I get to watch you buy things, but I can’t. Let’s say I’m afraid of heights and climb a mountain with you…or drive up it. I’ll be having a panic attack and you’ll be having a good time. Or I’m extremely self-conscious of my body and we go swimming. I hate myself the whole time or don’t leave the chair and watch you splash around. It’s not fun.

To avoid this, I think we should make a more concerted effort when asking people to hang out what they honestly want to do and what they don’t want to do. Let’s place ourselves in each other’s shoes for a moment and see how the other person might feel on certain outings.

Of course, sometimes I am just plain old busy doing something. The point of this article is to remember to switch places with another person before jumping to some wild conclusion. We can even ask questions to prompt a discussion. Are you tired today? Do you just not want to go shopping? Go out? What would be fun for you?

Let’s try new things together. Let’s learn to respect answers and honesty.

P.S that means we can’t get mad when someone needs an afternoon to relax and nap instead of grabbing coffee with us.


1 thought on ““I Can’t, I’m Busy””

  1. Reminds me of the old Native American Indian proverb about “walking a mile in another man’s moccasins”…reciprocal consideration. Very apt, and kind and critical in today’s world.

    Liked by 1 person

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