“I’m too busy”…bad manners or not?

A friend called in this morning for coffee and while we were talking generally the subject of people who don’t return phone calls, texts or emails came up. He has been working on a property development project with a prominent City Council and the person he had been dealing with would not reply to him via phone, text or email. This particular friend of mine is a bit lacking in the business etiquette skills department so I was incredulous when he raised the situation with me.

His retaliation to what he deemed poor business manners by the City Council bureaucrat was to go tell the recalcitrant’s superior that unless the communication situation was resolved successfully he would speak to the CEO of the City Council and report the council bureaucrat in “dereliction of his duty” …needless to say, the communication responses are now flowing like molten lava!

But the conversation started me thinking about situations which have occurred with me in this day and age of electronic immediacy. I have been waiting for 3 days for a plumber to call me back with a time for an appointment, which involves a toilet and so has an increasing urgency! and 2 weeks for a quote, via email, from a carpenter to help with my beachhouse; and 2 weeks for a start date, via SMS, from a painter to do some work at my house.

All of them when recontacted are “too busy” and apologies are made. I am pleased that they have so much work available that they are “busy” but does it really take that much time to at least indicate that a quote is on its way, an appointment is being planned and that a start date is being considered?

And while it is inconvenient for me to receive tardy responses, the husband of another friend has been job hunting in the “busy” mining industry sector recently and after sending out a great number of CV’s in response to electronic and print media advertisements he has had an acknowledgement of receipt, or advice of appointment at a rate of less than 5%.

But 5%, or near it, is 5% higher than the acknowledgement rate received by my very close friend who has been sending a copy of his book manuscript to numerous publishers for their consideration.

The lack of acknowledgement in these instances is not only, to my mind, incredibly rude, but at times soul destroying for those waiting for a reply email or contact of some kind.

At the same time, I wonder about the incessant need for immediacy with the mobile phone/computer which often leads to the exclusion of eye contact and empathy during talks as the texting with someone else is considered more important or relevant. Are we so ingrained with this urgency that we have forgotten that there are times when immediacy is just not appropriate?

Once upon a time, long ago it seems, the writing of quotes and other correspondence was undertaken by hand or typewriter, “snail mailed” and it was generally understood that 5 days to a week was normal for arrival at the other end. I don’t remember our stress levels being as high in those days…but perhaps these electronic media which are supposed to enhance our efficiency levels do in fact give us so much choice that our efficiency plummets and our stress increases.

There is an old saying that if you want something done urgently…ask a geniunely busy person to do it. Because invariably the busy person is so well organised the task will be completed…and the thought of being “busy” would not occur to them.


  1. Very good post, and so relevant. Maybe we should also play the busy line when receiving the bills from our late and busy carpenter/plumber/gardener: "sorry, mate, I have been so busy that I did not think of paying your bill, although it came on time".

  2. Bravo Damo! You remind me that unpunctuality is also endemic...and impolite. Thank you for your comment.


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