No doubt you’ve been both the sender and recipient of a “Sorry, I’ve been busy” text. People use it when they don’t know what to say and as a default response in various situations.
Sometimes you’re in a hectic state when you have such a busy schedule that your life seems to be spiraling out of control, and sometimes you just can’t be bothered talking to anyone. Instead of sharing your feelings, you might simply brush off the other person with this reply.
Having used it yourself doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always know what to respond when someone says they’ve been busy, though. It’s shorthand for, “You weren’t on my mind,” which can be justified or rude.
Here’s how to figure out the best way to respond.
What To Respond When Someone Says They’ve Been Busy?
First, you must figure out what the actual meaning of the message is – is the other person genuinely too busy to get back to you, is something else going on, or is it a sign of dismissal? – then, decide what to do about it.
The right way to respond when someone says they’ve been busy depends on the meaning behind it and the sender’s intent. Of course, who the person you’re talking to is, how much you care about them, and their response is as important.
If it’s someone you’ve just started talking to, it’s different than if it’s your partner. When you’re only getting to know someone, you don’t really care whether this girl or guy is flaky because you’re fine with not dealing with them.
By contrast, your partner ignoring your text message or dismissing your concern with no explanation is a red flag. Still, don’t jump to conclusions and create a problem where there might not be one. They might come to you with details later on.
A close friend who is looking for excuses not to talk to you is either angry with you, or you’re drifting apart. When you’re close to someone, you expect them to show more trust than an acquaintance.
What does “I’ve been busy” really mean?
Telling someone that you’re busy can be a way to let them know that you don’t want to talk to them for some reason without hurting their feelings. People who use this excuse don’t realize that others can tell when it’s an excuse, and their feelings might still get hurt.
Someone you’re dating could tell you this to keep you hooked while they’re waiting for another offer or to reject you without actually having to say it.
However, the most common reason someone says this is because they really are busy with work or other things or are having personal problems.
Here’s a comprehensive list of possible things someone could actually mean when they say they’ve been busy. The best way to understand which one they mean is to take a look at the rest of your relationship and how you usually communicate.
1. I’m actually busy./I’m busy, but not necessarily with work
Who hasn’t been in this situation? Crazy deadlines, demanding co-workers, chaos all around. You don’t have time for yourself, let alone another person. This person will get back to you when things quieten down.
2. I’m stressed./Not feeling well and can’t communicate
Life takes a chaotic turn once in a while, and all you need is more time and maybe a break. It can be difficult to pay attention to others during those times. Even though you might want to be helpful, it’s best to leave them alone at this time.
3. Something is going on that I want to keep private
With obligations and responsibilities piling up, everyone faces situations that are too delicate to share with anyone except the people closest to you, and sometimes not even them. What you really need is time to deal with this undisturbed.
4. I don’t want to say what’s really going on./I don’t want to explain why I’m not available
Maybe it’s something that has something to do with you, and maybe it isn’t. In any case, let the other person deal with their thing, and you focus on yours. There’s nothing else you can really do.
5. Don’t want to go there or do that./I’d rather do something besides what you’re offering
The other person is keeping their options open and waiting for a different offer. The best course of action is to consider them a no-show and do your thing without them. It’s not your fault they missed their chance.
6. I want you to think my life is fulfilled./You should know that I’m in demand
Even when they’ve been playing video games all day, some people will tell you they’re busy so you’ll think that their lives are richer than they are. They do seem more interesting and attractive.
7. I’m trying to spend less time with you./Not in the mood to talk to you
It can just be a temporary thing, or something about you is bothering the other person. They don’t want to tell you this out of fear of hurting your feelings or because they’re too much of a coward to face you. Don’t waste your time on someone who isn’t interested.
8. Leave me alone./I’m avoiding you
An excuse used instead of honesty. When someone is losing interest or pulling away and doesn’t openly tell you what’s going on, they’re trying to get you to take a hint. Maybe they want you to be the one to end things.
In this situation, you can walk away, or if you’re feeling spiteful, let them stew and pretend like nothing is wrong. Don’t let it get to you, though.
9. Look, even though I’m busy, I sometimes still make time for you
By dignifying you with a response, this person is letting you know that it’s an honor to receive an “I’ve been busy.” The best thing to do here is to appreciate your own time as much as they appreciate theirs and go your own way.
10. Generic answer
Some people use “I’ve been busy” as a catch-all response for every call and text they were late to reply to when they weren’t feeling like it. It’s a way to dismiss your questions without saying anything. We’re all guilty of this, though, so it’s up to you how understanding you’ll be.
What are the best responses to “I’m busy?”
The way to react to someone’s “I’m busy” message depends on the context, your relationship, whether you believe what they’re saying, and your willingness to listen.
Also, if the other person offers a reason without prompting, you’ll probably be more inclined to trust them. It shows that they’re probably not using it as an excuse but that they’re willing to give you their time when they can.
1. Someone important to you is actually busy or stressed or not feeling well
“I’m busy” is often an automatic response when you don’t feel like explaining what’s going on. We can become so caught up in our daily obligations that we lose sight of our social lives.
It doesn’t even have to be anything big or serious people are busy with, but simply everyday life.
For example, your friend might have had to prepare breakfast for the kids, take them to school, go to work, pick them up, do laundry, clean up… The list is endless, and when you texted them while they were buying groceries, all they were capable of replying was, “I’m busy.”
It’s not always work that keeps you occupied; sometimes, it’s leisure. I’ve been too busy browsing Amazon, napping, or going for a walk because this is another way of dealing with stress. Sometimes looking at your phone can be another chore, and a phone call would be torture.
You just don’t have it in you to explain everything all of the time, especially when you’re using that time to recover from stress. If it’s your significant other or a good friend who seems to be having a stressful time or mental health struggles, show them empathy.
- “OK, take your time. We’ll talk later.”
Give the other person the space they need, and they’ll reach out to you when they can. Let them know that if they want to actually talk about what’s happening, they can, but it’s okay if they don’t.
If your partner or friend is an introvert, they need to be alone to recharge. Give them enough time to catch their bearings.
- “How are you? Anything I can help with?”
Make sure they know they can rely on you, then leave them alone. Put yourself in this situation: if you were in a place where you needed to deal with something, you’d like to be able to rely on someone even if you don’t actually need them at the moment.
- “Let me know if you need anything.”
This is usually too vague and non-committal to say to someone who’s going through something. Since the other person has made it clear that right now, they need to deal with it on their own, however, it’s enough if they know they have someone willing to assist them.
2. Your partner is being distant
If your partner told you they were going to call you last night, then replied that they’ve been busy this morning when you asked them what happened, the situation might be suspicious. You might be worried that your partner is hiding something or withdrawing from you.
Before you jump to any conclusions, take into account the rest of your relationship. If something serious is going on, there are going to be more clues than a few dismissive texts.
When someone is pulling away from a relationship, it happens gradually, even when it seems abrupt. It’s hard to pinpoint the first time things felt wrong. There are signs along the way, and you slowly start to feel that things aren’t what they used to be.
If everything else in the relationship is normal, your partner is either a phenomenal actor or their “I’m busy” messages aren’t a big deal. If you’ve noticed other signs of your partner pulling away, then you shouldn’t deal with it over the phone or by text.
Of course, when the other person isn’t making you their top priority, you might start to panic. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt and rest assured that they’ll come to you when there’s something you can help with or to tell you what’s been going on.
- “How can I help?”
Maybe your partner has something weighing on them that they feel ashamed of or uncomfortable sharing. Depending on where you are in your relationship, they might still try to appear cool in front of you.
Whatever is going on can be a chance for you to show them you’re someone who can be there for them and to become closer. If they’re reluctant to open up, show them empathy, and they will come to you when they can.
- “What’s wrong? Call me when you can.”
If your relationship is stable, your partner might just be having a crazy day with lots of responsibilities, or something urgent happened. Things might go back to normal the next day, or if they don’t, they’ll let you know as soon as they can.
If something is going on in your relationship besides dismissive messages, you probably know you’re having problems. Your relationship might be over, or things can be fixed, but think carefully if you want to deal with it over the phone.
Such things are best discussed face-to-face, so use your phone only to arrange a meeting. Misunderstandings are inevitable if you don’t communicate directly, and the situation might get worse.
- Don’t reply.
Simply let your partner deal with their thing and come to you. If your relationship is working, this shows trust. Maybe it’s a work emergency or something they want to spare you from – you know they would come to you if they needed you to be there.
Give your significant other time to deal with their issues without trying to figure out the possible answers to what’s going on. They’ll let you know when they can.
If you’re feeling like your partner is pulling away, don’t engage with them over the phone. Try to set up a meeting when they contact you, but don’t push it. Focus on yourself and deal with your relationship when you’re both present.
3. A crush who doesn’t really seem interested
So someone you’ve known for a couple of weeks is giving you excuses. Do you really care? Your ego might be a little bruised if this seems like a rejection, but isn’t it better to know early on?
This person might actually be busy. They might be going through something, but you’re not close enough to talk about this kind of thing. In fact, involving you in drama early on might not be a good sign.
If this person has ditched you and used the “I’m busy” excuse, have they offered you another time when they’ll be available? If not, they might be uninterested, and they either believe they’re being kind by stringing you along or doing it on purpose to keep you hooked.
Either way, if someone who isn’t very important to you (yet) is using “I’m busy” on you, don’t pay them much attention. Do your own thing and give them a chance to explain when they get back to you.
- “No problem, talk to you later.”
This is a neutral way to show you’re not bothered, but you’re open if they want to get in touch later. Even if you’re not, you should play it as cool as possible. From this point on, don’t text them or call them again. Don’t stalk them on social media or make any contact with them at all.
This person is either actually busy or not interested in talking to you at the moment, so instead of begging for attention, focus on yourself. Don’t think about them and worry when they’ll contact you. Instead, do something fun, and hang out with someone else.
- “Oh, that’s okay. I had something come up, too, actually.“
If the last time you talked, they made it a big deal that you should meet up next week but then ghosted you, you need to show them that you don’t care when they finally get in touch. Don’t try too hard, though, because then it might seem like you’re overcompensating.
If you don’t really have an interest in them and want to give them a taste of their own medicine, the next time they’re bored and send a “What’s up?” text, just ignore it for a while, then hit them with a “Sorry, I’ve been busy.”
Don’t do this if you want to pursue something with this person, though. These kinds of games will only hurt in the long run.
- Don’t reply.
If it’s a text, just ignore it. If it’s a phone call, don’t comment on their “I’m busy” and don’t offer to meet up or make any plans. Let them either explain what’s been going on or be the one to move things forward.
You’ve shown your interest, and now they have to show theirs. They should respect you and your time. If they don’t, it’s not your problem because you have better things to do. If you’re still interested, let them make time for you if they want. If they don’t, it’s their loss.
People will tell you they’re busy in a lot of situations, but it usually means that they’re either actually busy or they don’t want to talk to you for some reason.
Deciding what to respond when someone says they’ve been busy can be tricky because it can be hard to accept that someone doesn’t need you. Also, you want to show you’re there but don’t want to push the other person away. In general, what you should do depends on how much you care.
It’s not the same when a friend of yours is having problems and when a guy you’re dating is being flaky. If you want to play it cool, or if you want to be helpful.
In the end, someone who told you they’re busy has shown you that at that moment, they can do without you, and your best bet is to leave the ball in their court and let them come to you.