If you have seen Anchorman, this is one of my favorite moments in the movie. It’s also one I hear quoted the most. It is a ridiculous thing to say to a person. And part of what makes it funny, is that it communicates something we always want to say to people but would never articulate it like Ron Burgundy.
Which reminds me of another moment from one of my all time favorite television shows: Seinfeld. In this particular episode, George is trying to figure out how to appear busy so his boss will leave him alone and he can continue to slack off. He decides the way forward is to always look annoyed when people come and talk to him. His boss comes in and checks on him and he frowns and says, “I got a lot to do!”
I think I am a lot more like Ron Burgundy and George than I care to admit.
Have you ever found yourself checking email or texting when you are with another person? Maybe especially when there is a lag or awkwardness in conversation? Maybe I am the only one.
I want people to think I am busy.
I want people to know how many other people are demanding my attention.
So I say things like, “Leave me alone!” (but I don’t mean it) or “I have to take this” (no, I don’t) or “I just have too many things going right now” (which could all be taken care of in the half hour when I return to the office).
Why do I do this? Because I want people to think I am important. If I have a lot of projects and people demanding my time, then the people who see me check my phone will think I am a pretty big deal. But in reality, I am often just opening Facebook and seeing that absolutely no one has messaged me.
We want people to know we are a big deal. And we communicate this by making people think we are busy. But when we do this, we are elevating our own importance at the cost of the importance of those who we are with in person.
When I show off how important I am by how many OTHER people demand my time, I am (maybe not so) subtly communicating that those other people are more important than the person I am sitting face to face with.
Some weeks I am busy. But even then, how difficult is it to turn my phone off long enough to have lunch or coffee? How difficult is it to communicate that while my time is important, so is the time of the person I am with? To make it a priority to value the person I am with in both time and presence?
Maybe we should take our own importance a little less seriously, and start giving more attention to the people who gave up their own valuable time to sit and talk with us.