“I Know You’re Busy But…”

Marissa Levin
Marissa Levin
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“I know you’re busy, but….”

“This may sound [weird/crazy/stupid/silly], but…..”

In one of my recent coaching sessions, I worked with a client who is having difficulty engaging with an aggressive, somewhat disrespectful colleague. Let’s face it; we all have to deal with difficult people at some point in our careers. They are as predictable and enjoyable as taxes.

The goal is not to avoid these people. The goal is to develop strategies that prevent them from sucking the life out of you, so that when you arrive at home, someone in your house doesn’t ask, “Why are you in such a bad mood??”

It’s easy to blame the person that seems to be causing our angst. Victims always point fingers and sidestep the mirror when seeking the truth. The truth is, however, that often our own behaviors and beliefs are what cause us to feel a certain way about ourselves.

In our coaching session, my client and I were strategizing about an email she needs to send to this “difficult” person to request some one-on-one time.  I am helping her craft the email so that she straddles the fine line between assertive and pushy.

The first line she wanted to write was, “I know you’re busy, but…” I stopped her in her tracks. She said, “What’s wrong with that? I thought it was clever and considerate.” Here’s what that line REALLY says:

1. “I know you’re time is more valuable than mine because you are a super-duper busy person!”


2. “I know you’re busy (I just told you that), but I don’t really care. I want you to stop what you are doing and pay attention to me.”


3. “What I have to say isn’t really important so you don’t really need to pay attention to it.”

“I know you’re busy, but…” is a TERRIBLE way to start any conversation. It provides no value. It makes assumptions. It has nothing to do with the purpose or intent of the communication. It reeks of insecurity, and degrades the person saying it. 

The other self-demeaning phrase that instantly discredits the writer/speaker is, “This may sound [weird/crazy/stupid/silly], but…..”

If you don’t value your own time, or your own ideas, why should someone else?  We are all busy. No one else’s time is any more valuable than yours. Yes, people obviously are not available at the exact same times we are available. But this doesn’t translate into them being more important.

When we want others to value our time, input, perspectives, and contributions, we have to first value them ourselves.

Difficult people will be part of the business environment forever. The best way to contain their negativity is to find our own voices, assert ourselves by respectfully asking for what we need, and not assign any more importance to a single individual than they have earned or deserve. Notice that these are all self-directed behaviors. Scheming to have them transferred to another project/division/company/country doesn’t really address the issue of negative self-worth.

  • If you need a meeting with someone, ask them.
  • If they owe you information, request it – with a deadline.
  • If you’ve given someone feedback or input and they’ve ignored you, then move on.

The majority of people in the workforce want to do a really good job, receive the appropriate recognition, and have trust-based and respect-based relationships with their colleagues. All of these things start with the relationships we have with ourselves, and the messages we send to others regarding how we feel about ourselves, and what we will or will not tolerate.

This may sound crazy, but…..think about from this perspective.

Keep growing!

P.S. One of the most transformational investments a leader can make is to surround themselves with others who can help them solve their problems and formulate new ideas…people who have faced the same challenges, have achieved higher levels of growth, have implemented creative solutions, and will help them see the world a little differently.

On May 28th, join 35 other leaders who are committed to sharing their challenges and their breakthroughs so that you can reach your FULL potential at my 2014 Premiere Mastermind Power Summit.

My own Mastermind group has helped me triple my business growth in 12 months! This is why I am so excited to bring the 2014 Premiere Mastermind Power Summit to the DC region! 

Successful Culture supporters receive 30% off. The discount code is SUCCESS. You may learn more about this amazing day and register here.

See you on the 28th!


photo credit stockimages via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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