• Keeping Friends

In the Media – Being a good friend when you’re busy

Published: March 17, 2016 | Last Updated: April 2, 2016 By | 10 Replies Continue Reading

fast company

Fast Company (screenshot)

Fast Company (screenshot)

March 17th, 2016

In the business magazine Fast Company, journalist Laura Vanderkam writes about some of the challenges of being a good friend when you’re busy. Men and women often feel so pulled by the demands of their family and careers, especially in midlife, that it seems as though friendships fall by the wayside.

For her article, Vanderkam contacted The Friendship Doctor, and writes:

The problem is that during the busy years of building careers and raising families, “setting aside time for friends can feel self-indulgent or even selfish,” says Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and producer of The Friendship Blog.

But “a number of studies have shown that friends are vital to our physical health and emotional well-being,” Levine says. “They provide concrete and intangible support to make these busy years easier and more enjoyable.”

Vanderkam then goes on to list practical ways busy people can be better friends by using their time more effectively. The final point she makes, one which is very important, is that we also need to be choosy about making good choices—finding friends that enhance our lives rather than ones who are draining.

You can read the Fast Company article, “How To Be A Better Friend, Even When You’re Busy,” in its entirety here that includes some excellent suggestions.

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Category: IN THE MEDIA, Setting aside time for friendship

Comments (10)

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  1. JEM says:

    I remember those days of family and work obligations and know that I fell short in keeping up with friends and family and their lives. Now that those are no longer factors, I have done much better and have done my best to re-establish a connection. It really does not take much time to stay in touch. I know I always knew that but a lot of those years were pre-internet and let’s face it, email, texts, etc can make it easier to stay in touch only if the communication is personal and not a post on one’s page.

    One thing I have found to be true is that people make time for what is important to them. Whether by or to us.

    I became a widow in 2015 after a long term marriage, 37 years and years of caregiving. Just that has allowed me to sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. It is pretty amazing at how few of my “friends” sent a card or reached out in some way. Yet others have gone above and beyond. I think I am still processing what that truly means. I also think all relationships can be complicated but honesty is the beginning. Being busy can be real but it also can sure sound like an excuse.

    • Ariane says:

      So sorry about your loss Jem. Well, you surely do find out who your friends are in difficult times.

      I do agree with you that being busy is nothing more than excuse for some and honesty is the beginning.

      With technology and all it does sound a bit silly for someone to say they are busy when it is so much easier nowadays to keep in touch. That’s why I can’t understand why some people use the “I’m too busy excuse” when they really want to say “I don’t have time for you.”

      I’m busy, but I manage. If I find I am not making time for you then I reevaluate the friendship to determine if I should continue or not. If I decide it’s not worth it and the person isn’t contacting me about why he/she hasn’t heard from me I just let the friendship drift off.

      • JEM says:

        Thank you Arlane. And it is definitely true about friends and difficult times. I had a taste of it when caregiving so really, I should not have been surprised when my husband died. But being rather a hopeful type person, I guess I was.

        I think another aspect about busyness is that it can become a competition of who is the busiest. How silly is that? We all are in our own way.

        It is so easy to send a quick text or email and just asking how the other person’s day is going. Or weekend. Who doesn’t like to get such a text? Friendship is truly not a competition or even all about them or us. It must be mutual.

        I made dinner on Saturday night, Singapore Noodles, that turned out great (if I do say so myself!). I took a picture of the finished dish and sent it to a few friends. We had a very pleasant dialogue as a result and while it was very pleasant, it just did not eat up my evening! It is the little stuff in life, eh? And a true friendship should be worth the effort.

      • Paula15 says:

        I wonder if your friend was waiting to see if you’re interested enough in the friendship to make an effort. Obviously she had time at some point, but you were busy. I find that if people who are ‘busy’ don’t make an effort to talk to me after several times I’ve made the effort, they are simply not worth it. I don’t get angry. I just leave it be. One day, when they have time, they will approach me if they miss my company. And if they don’t, then no loss.

  2. Lyn says:

    Forgive me but I thought this was an article about making time for your friends when you lead a busy life.
    Who said anything about lying to your friends about being busy.
    Good friends understand and will be your friends what ever.
    However when you are faced with one who refused to understand and demanded more attention than You can give it is really hard.She has thrown rotten eggs at a persons door for not wanting to get involved with her I didn’t know this when I got to know this person does this sound like a normal person to you?
    You can judge all you like but I am a busy mum with five children and a full time job .

  3. Lyn says:


    I think maybe a lot of people regret and wish they had handled things better in the past with a difficult friendship and no one can really comment on other people’s experiences as no one is perfect we all make mistakes in life we shouldn’t have to stay friends with someone if they are making us miserable.
    It can be hard to tell some one the truth if they won’t listen and don’t want to hear the truth so how do you handle it?
    What is the best way to break with them without hurting them?
    Saying your busy and slowly distancing yourself is some times the best way with out hurting them.Hopefully they will move on.

    • Ariane says:

      Why say you are busy? I can’t really see anything wrong with the distancing, but why start telling lies about being busy? If someone doesn’t contact you anymore after you distance yourself great, but if he/she wants to know what’s going on then you should tell them.

      I wasn’t really getting that you had any regrets in regards to the way you handled things. I was getting that you are ok with the way you handle these situations and don’t see a things wrong with this.

      You didn’t tell her the truth and she still got mad and hurt, so who’s feelings did you spare? Surely it wasn’t hers, so I don’t think you were trying not to “hurt” her. Sounds like you were trying to pay her back for making you so miserable. By the way no one can make you miserable if you don’t let them.

      Do you think it is ok for someone to do this to you?

      People do this because they don’t know how to handle conflict and they are sparing themselves from conflict and confrontation. They are looking out for #1.

      Being truthful and letting her know how you felt would have been the thing to do. Being truthful doesn’t mean being brutal. Maybe she wasn’t aware how she was coming across? Maybe she was dealing with a lot at one time? You don’t know because you never confronted her about it. Anyways, sounds like you weren’t that invested in the relationship.

      We aren’t meant to be friends forever with everyone who comes into our lives, but people do deserve the truth and respect of the matter. In some cases the feedback could be a catalyst for change for the other person and will give them food for thought and possibly salvage the relationship if the two parties are willing to give it a second chance.

      Honesty does work. If she chose not to listen or care, then I think it would have been appropriate to immediately cut all ties with her.

      Again, this is passive-aggressive and you should learn to manange conflict. You shouldn’t do this to people.

  4. Lyn says:


    I think if your friendships are good and solid no matter how busy you are with life’s demands real friends will stick by you and understand and you will manage to spend time with them when you can if you really care for them.

    However if a friend keeps making excuses that they are too busy then maybe it’s time to step back and take the hint not all friendships last forever.

    I myself had a friend I had not known for long who I felt draining and a control freak I told her I was too busy stopped emailing but she didn’t give up and got nasty which made me see I had done the right thing.
    I guess it all depends on what type of person you are friends with.


    • Ariane says:

      Take a hint? Really? Why play games? How passive-aggressive. If you solve your problems by ignoring them and hoping they go away then the problem lies with you, not so much your ex friend. I hate say this, but you did her a favor.

      “I told her I was too busy stopped emailing but she didn’t give up and got nasty which made me see I had done the right thing.”………Did you do the right thing? I think not. Of course she got upset because you told her you were too busy and not that you wanted to end the relationship. You lied and she didn’t like it. You could of handled this better like be honest. Being honest doesn’t mean being brutal. Couldn’t you tell her you didn’t feel compatible as friends?

      I guess when someone says that he/she is busy I trust that he/she is being honest; not that I have to read between the lines to decode what he/she really means.

      How would you feel if someone did this to you?

      Learn to handle conflict because this has passive-aggressive written all over this.

  5. IBikeNYC says:

    At what point should one take the hint that they really mean too busy for YOU?

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