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Counseling/neighbor: "I'm so busy!!".


The woman who lives across the hall from me is someone I wanted to get to know but she has kind of turned me off. WHENEVER you ask her "how are you" she replies, "Busy, very busy". And she will go on to tell you what she is doing that makes her so busy.

This seems to be all she can talk about. I realize this is not a mental health question but I was wondering why someone would always reply like that and then tell you all they are doing. It is annoying as "how are you" is often used as a way to enter into conversations and meant to be a friendly gesture.

I really am not interested in "how busy" she is. And frankly, it has gotten to the point where I feel it is rude because it is like brushing someone off to launch into how busy you are when that person is  clearly just trying to be friendly and get to know you.

So why would someone always be telling you "Oh, I am so busy". And really act overwhelmed by it!!!!

Between you and me she isn't that busy! She just thinks she is. She is retired.

Tonight I had to ask her for something and I did not ask her how she is. When she asked me how I was I said "busy". (true). It's the first time I replied like that. And it felt good to know now not to ask her how she is.

Thank you,

Sue, the problem with questions about motivation is that we can never know why people do what they do.  Ask someone who comes from a psychoanalytic background, they'll give you a different answer then a behaviorist or one of close to 500 different theories.  Perhaps she simply doesn't get the social rule that "how are you" in our culture is the same as saying "hello". Maybe she comes from a different culture where asking how are you really means that the questioner really wants to know.  For example, in Germany if you ask the equivalent (wie gehts es mit ihnen), you should expect an answer.  Whatever the reason, I think the best course is to say hello and leave it at that.


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Joel Simon


General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.


Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website:

A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at

Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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