There are many tasks to complete in a workday and sometimes you are facing heavy workload periods with tight deadlines. During such times, people easily tend to emphasize how much work they have and how busy they are. In fact, they might even blame their “busyness” for having to turn down a co-worker’s request who asks for help or advice.

While this seems to be an immediate solution for their own sake, expressing how busy one is can dismiss the other person. In other words, it does not give them the opportunity to get on their priority list and sends the signal of “at the moment, you’re not a priority at all.”

Clearly, it is almost impossible to serve all things to all people at once. But what language can be used to make it clear that you have things to get done, but want to be helpful?

Try to remember that if someone asks you for your opinion or input for a brainstorm, they are simply asking for help and a way to collaborate. So instead of declining the request, which signals that “I can’t help you, I’ve got other important things to do.”, be positive and give your colleague a heads up by saying “I’m working on a time-sensitive project right now. Is there any chance I can get back to you later today or tomorrow?”. This way you signal your willingness to help in a few minutes or later this week while not sacrificing your own workload.

We are the sports practice of global advisory firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe. We provide strategy and communication advice for sports clients around the world. For more information: