I am taking postgraduate education and also have a very stressful job and I'm in a serious relationship. Getting these things together take a lot of my time and mind.

When I'm around people not from my university or work, I'm so lost in thoughts that I don't hear them talking or when they say something I forget due to my busy mind. I really don't mean anything bad by that.

When people ask me why I didn't do what I supposed to do I say "Sorry I forgot about that." I always thought that they understood that I'm busy but I've noticed that recently it is causing them think that I don't care about them especially my family. I really don't want to upset them. This was affecting my relationship too, but after a really long explanation we made everything clear for the both of us.

Since I can't give this long explanation to everyone and this short answer seems offensive, what is the best way to tell or show them that I do care and mean no harm to them?


3 Answers 3


In reading your question, I see one very important thing: you are over-committed. I ran into this issue when I was in Graduate School as well.

The first thing is to decide your priorities and focus on them, then communicate those and decline activities that do not fit with your priorities. I needed to do that and it saved my sanity. That's more of a long-term solution that will prevent this issue to a large extent.

Now, as you move forward: the effort you put into something tells people how important it is to you. if you don't do something or don't put effort into it, that tells the others how important it is to you. So, if you forget, that can be seen as indifference. I had to respond to others with, "I've been declining activities and projects all over the place since I am pretty severely over-committed. This was one of those things that ran into other things and I couldn't get to it like I thought I could. That's also why I'm turning down activities that I'd normally do - I just don't have the time for all these things right now." That helped people understand that I was aware of the problem, was doing something about it, and that I didn't see their request as not having value.

In your case, I'd also add something to the extent of "I really do care/this means a lot and it wasn't deliberate". The big thing here that shows sincerity is to actually DO something about the problem, which is why I had to decline a lot of activities so I could focus on school.

  • I like what you said about "the effort you put into something tells people how important it is to you". One thing is not being able to do things, other is not paying attention when people is talking to you, agreeing to do things and then not do them. Sadly that shows his priorities.
    – Mykazuki
    Dec 6, 2019 at 23:07

I'm coming from a very similar situation where my stress and unhappiness from my previous job caused me to be very forgetting and additionally very easy to get angry. Causing some small fights.

You need to do the same with your family members, as you did with your girlfriend. Since you can't have the same long talk with everybody focus on the important parts and try to help them understand there's no ill intend in your behavior.

I don't know the specifics but if you could get a hold of a bunch of family members at the same time it would help

Sit down with them and tell them that you noticed that you are more forgetting in the past days/weeks/months and that you are truly sorry. This will make them realize you know about it, assuring them they are not alone with this conception, which sets a good start for the setting and conversation. Explain that you are under a lot of stress and that after a day of working/studying your energy is mostly depleted, causing you to be more fatigue which sometimes results in forgetting things. You can state that you try to remember but it just get's lost under all the other things on your mind which are causing you stress, if that is the case. If it is very important to you, you can also mention that your relationship is also of very high importance to you which might also be the cause for some occurrences of forgetting something, this can just be a little to bring across without making the impression your relationship is higher than family.

But most important of all; don't lie and don't make things up. Be honest and explain the situation briefly.

I would recommend to open the dialogue now after your introduction of the topic. Ask them about their view point on the situation, try to know what is hurting them if you forget things and try to make a plan on how to fight it with them. Including them not only in the situation but also asking them on their viewpoint will help to "smoothen" the situation between you. This dialogue doesn't need to be long, just make your introduction statements of the topic/situation and ask a question about their view point to make them feel included on the situation. That should be enough for most cases.

They might offer help, or maybe not. Also they might ask you less fetch requests for example to help lessen your stress of trying to not forget.

But even if they don't change their behavior or try to help you, they should now understand your situation and be less hurt when you forget something.

Another advice I would give is to try and remember a little bit more even after discussing this with them, to show a signal that you really try to not forget. There are plenty of methods and tools to aid you with this.

You could try a to-do list app which allows for multiple users, syncing the to-do's and maybe even assign a to-do to himself/another person. Maybe set up reminders in your phone/pc/mail to remind you of stuff at a certain time, like just when work ends for example.

If there are cases where the person doesn't seem to be less hurt or is still not understanding your situation, you might have to fall back to one-to-one talks which might be a in more detail and dialogue.

I wish you best of luck!


I think you actually said it all already. You miss at most a part of the interpretation.

I really don't mean anything bad by that.

But communication is really about how your message is interpreted, not only the message itself. And how you communicate it most definitely influences the interpretation:

I didn't do what I was supposed to do

That is what you communicate as well! Let's be honest and reformulate it: you did not care enough to actually prioritize it.

So you say you care but you show you don't and that's what people around you notice.

what is the best way to tell or show them that I do care and mean no harm to them?

You showed with your description how honest you can be to yourself, so be that honest to your relatives and friends too. Simply summarize what you wrote (or what I interpreted out of it):

You care about them but you have things now that take a lot of your time and mind. You have to prioritize your activities and you decided to pass on what they expect of you rather than being sorry later for not having done it.

One thing left after that: no matter how much you refuse, if you accept to do one single thing, do not forget to do it or you'll be back to the original problem. If you have to, refuse everything instead.

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