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It’s OK to Be Unavailable … Really!

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It’s OK to Be Unavailable … Really!

Is it just me or are you finding people are texting you to say they can’t talk to you right now, at the same time as you’re leaving a message on their voicemail?

I would say this happens to me with probably every second person I phone, and I don’t get it because what is the point of me even leaving a message?

If it is just me, then I have no idea what I’m doing to gain this response. But as I’ve mentioned this to many other business owners and they’ve recalled the same experience, then surely, we should be looking at why this very strange behaviour is happening.

Years ago, it seemed quite acceptable to be ‘unavailable’ which meant customers, suppliers, colleagues, etc., left a message on our answering machine or voicemail, and we called them back as soon as we could, usually within a day at the latest.

But now, that just doesn’t seem to be good enough, and because there is the unrealistic expectation that we should always be available to answer our phones, it seems people feel the need to text ‘they can’t talk right now’.

Yet here’s the thing which you may not realise; I actually know that.

Why? Because you didn’t answer the phone!

I am not so arrogant in my expectation that I believe you are doing nothing else except waiting with bated breath until I decide to call you. I also believe I’m intelligent enough to understand that if you haven’t answered the phone, there is a good reason for that.

Maybe:

  • You’re in a meeting.
  • You’re indisposed.
  • You’re eating.
  • You’re taking some much-needed time out.
  • You’re working on something which requires total concentration.

Or whatever else you deem more important than taking my phone call (which is fine), and you know what, that’s OK. Yet, so many people seem to doubt my intelligence by immediately texting me that they can’t talk.

So here’s my message to everyone who does this:

Please stop doing this and give yourself permission to be unavailable and know it is actually OK.

Because here’s the other thing, not only are you dismissing the intelligence of your caller, but you are also being disrespectful to the person you are with, be it a client, colleague, staff member or yourself.

I’ve stopped counting how many times the texted response is, ‘I’m in a meeting, call you when I can’. Which tells me you’re not being very present with that person or persons in that meeting.

As far as I’m concerned, no one should have phones on in meetings because nothing is that urgent or important than where you are right now. The only exception to this would be an illness with a family member, to which I always advise clients upfront that I have to keep my phone on for this purpose only, and they understand and appreciate the honesty.

Otherwise, they just think I’m rude and distracted as I check my phone whenever it rings. This doesn’t give my client confidence in my ability to help their business, does it? It instead gives the impression that I’m waiting for something better than them and their issues.

Side point.

If you’re using your phone as a distraction and/or to avoid being truly present in a meeting etc., then I would be asking myself, “Why am I here and should I be? Is this the best use of my time?”

Sometimes we are in situations by default because instead of saying no, we said yes, and we pay a heavy price; be it time, workload or physical and mental well-being.

So next time when your phone rings and you’re already committed to something (a task, a meeting or a conversation), please do nothing and let it go to message bank so you can remain present in the moment.

I promise you, the world won’t collapse, and it will be OK. Plus you’ll be amazed at how much more you get done because you’re no longer stopping your concentrated thought process to deal with interruptions.

Finally, remember the wonderful words of wisdom from Winnie-the-Pooh:

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”

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