Spending time

My latest conversational trick: the phrase “spending time” can make a lot of activities look more impressive. For example:

“Tonight? I’m spending some time with my mum.”


“Tonight? I’m watching X-Factor with my mum and we’ll probably get blitzed on white wine as well.”


“I’m leaving work on the dot because it’s important to spend time with my kids.”


“I’m leaving work on the dot because I’m going to run around the garden with my kids, pretending to be a dragon.”


“I need to spend some time with the team in Bristol.”


“I need to go to Bristol, wander around the office asking everybody in turn about their work, get on their nerves a bit, surf the internet on my phone for half an hour, then suggest a pub lunch.”

Whatever you’re actually doing, technically you’re spending time doing it. But using the phrase “spending time” implies intentionality. It implies responsibility. It implies making a decision. That’s the key, I think. As a culture, even if we don’t explicitly acknowledge it, we respect the ability to make a decision.

The Eighties concept of “quality time” has fallen out of fashion. We now acknowledge, I think, that quantity time is important. Showing up, being there. But we don’t really have a catchy phrase to acknowledge that actually, the pub lunch with the team in Bristol could matter just as much as the awkward one-to-one questioning. Contact doesn’t have to be serious or important or intense to matter. But to matter, it has to happen.

So use the “spending time” trick. Add a martyr face and use words like “should”, “need” and “serious” to strengthen the effect. Then go and enjoy yourself!

Explore posts in the same categories: conversational tactics, cultural narratives


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One Comment on “Spending time”

  1. […] can have similarly disastrous effects. I recently watched an episode of Saturday Kitchen while spending time with some elderly relatives, and got a fascinating example of […]

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