“I can’t make it because…”
We’re on this earth for a very short amount of time. Each day, you give about a third of that time away to your employer, a third to sleep and a decent chunk of the remaining third to chores, bills, taxes, traffic and other adult unpleasantries. What you choose to do with whatever is left over is sacred and requires no explanation.
So if you don’t want to go to something you’ve been invited to, just say you can’t make it. Period. You don’t owe anyone any more than that but you do owe them a response in advance. Don’t pretend you’re coming and then bail at the last second to watch Netflix because life is short and you do what you want. No one likes that person.
“I’m so busy.”
Yeah, no crap. Everyone is. The glorification of busy is exhausting and boring. Talk about the stuff you do that makes you busy instead of the predictable fact that you’re busy like everyone else.
Whether your busy-ness is caused by positive events (business is great and we’re scrambling to keep up!) or negative events (business is NOT great and we’re scrambling to stay afloat!), sharing what’s authentically happening in your life instead of dropping it under the all-important umbrella of “busy” helps you find common ground with other humans who have similar experiences. And that’s way more fulfilling than pretending to be burned out and important.
“When are you going to have a(nother) baby??”
Well-meaning and enthusiastic as you may be, consider that you could be lobbing this incredibly personal question to a person (or couple) who doesn’t want to have a(nother) baby, is desperately trying to have a(nother) baby and can’t, recently suffered a miscarriage or just doesn’t want you in their business like that. Let it go.
Do you know any couples who have kept a pregnancy a secret for 9 months? No. You’ll find out when you find out.
“Let’s hang out some time!”
I feel like this is something people say when they feel guilty about losing touch but not guilty enough to have noticed your absence prior to running into you. It’s just a very passive way to put the ball in someone else’s court like, “Hi, I’m going to halfheartedly acknowledge your absence from my life so I look genuinely interested in your friendship but I’m not actually going to assist in following up on this conversation.”
If you want to hang out with someone, just invite them to hang out at a specific location at a specific time on a specific date.
“Can I pick your brain?”
If you’re seeking information, advice or an introduction that someone is usually paid to know, administer or facilitate, you need to be very direct in your ask. Some people might be willing to share their time with you but others might respond with, “Sure, here’s how much I charge for that.”
Either way, everyone will appreciate you being up front about your motivation. So if you want a job, say you want the job. If you want an introduction to someone you can’t otherwise reach, say you want the introduction. If you want to pitch your service, say you want to pitch your service. Don’t come in under the veil of “brain picking” or “making connections” unless that’s really all you want to do.
With the exception of true, heartfelt apologies (“I’m sorry I forgot your birthday!”), this one needs to go, especially in instances where it precedes a thoughtful and assertive opinion.
“Sorry to interrupt but I think…” Nope. Stop. Start over without apologizing for existing.
“I think…” Much better, right?