Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Please settle an argument I am having with two of my friends. I’m
having it by the way with each of them. I haven’t had the guts to tell
either of them that I am having the same fight with the other, and
they don’t know each other. I did tell them that I’d go with whatever
you said. Here’s the problem: I’m very busy and trying hard to make
more time for relaxation. I have lots of friends, many of whom call me
on the run, as I do (all hands-free of course). Usually we’re trying to
tell each other a fast headline or make plans for when we’re going to
connect. But I also know that any/either of them could have a medical
or family emergency; I would never not want to be there for them. My
protocol is to answer, warn them if I only have a minute or two, find
out the topic, and then call back later. The both hate it when I do that
and each has said, “JUST DON’T ANSWER! I’ll leave you a message.”
I’m trying to be available, responsive, and efficient. Can I keep doing
what I do, or should I do as they ask?

Dear Dissing:
You’ve answered your own question: Do what your friends are asking
you to do. I believe you when you say you want to be available in an
emergency. In an emergency, they’ll call back. And keep calling until
you pick up and answer and help. Or they’ll call someone who picks up
on the first ring and is prepared to give them full attention. But
starting a conversation with “Why I can’t talk” is not only inefficient
but also rude. Actually it may be efficient for you. But your rudeness to
them trumps the efficiency for you. What you perceive as trying to
send a message of caring (I’m here for something “important”) is
sending a different message: whatever you called me about is less
important than what I was doing before I picked up the phone.
I’m voting with them. If you answer, talk. Or don’t, let them leave a
message, and take responsibility for finding them later. At a minimum,
you owe it to them to do what they are asking. And a good friend,                                  especially one who’s trying to make more room in life for what
matters, would take the time to talk.