Are you busy?
This is the business analog to the “how are you doing” question that we use in social greetings. It is the question most people ask in professional situations as a means to develop small-talk and hopefully advance the conversation.
I’m sure it is meant with innocence on most people’s parts yet often I believe it is as shallow as asking the question how are you? This is not to say the person asking the question doesn’t care, it has just developed into a catchphrase more than an honest interrogatory request.
So let’s say the intent behind the question is sincere, is that the right question to ask in a business situation?
Those of us who are in business for ourselves or those whom have some vested interest in the success of the business wish to have enough work or perhaps more than enough work to satisfy financial goals. One of the first rules in business is to get the work, get the work, get the work. We must get the work in order to be successful in business. However as usual I am never satisfied with the questions people ask and I generally feel we ask the incorrect question most of the time.
In the most basic sense of the word busy, it means I have plenty of tasks to occupy my time that are seemingly useful or productive. I never lack for something to do both professionally or even personally. Long are the days when I could say that I was bored like a young teenager often mistakenly says to their parents.
Let’s look at this for what it is – are you busy? Here is why I don’t know how to answer it and why I’m awkward in social situations.
If I say no, it appears that either the market is slow or I am unsuccessful. If I say yes, most people smile and say “that is great” and the direction the conversation takes remains uncertain. Therefore, I don’t know what it measures. Having much work and having my time spoken for does not necessarily result in achieving goals.
Do you have interesting work, is a more thought-provoking question and one that might cause the conversation to progress in an meaningful direction. Are you doing rewarding work? Are you finding commissions that meet your professional goals? Are you satisfied? Are you happy? Is this the direction you wish to continue? Maybe your question is an inquiry to meeting financial goals, profits, or targets. My thoughts on these questions will be addressed another day.
Yes leave it to me to nitpick where nitpicking may be inappropriate, however every time I run into somebody whom I may not have seen for a while and we go through the proverbial socially acceptable pattern of small-talk, one of the first questions that I am typically asked is ‘are you busy’.
I wonder what would happen if after we say hello, hi or some other type of friendly salutation if we asked a more probing question, would we get to a more thought-provoking, more satisfying or relational conversation?
It’s something to think about the next time you are shaking someone’s hand.
I’m sure no one will ever talk to me ever again.