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It seems that in the dictionary, they often say "at your convenience" or "at your service"

For example, "Please call me at your convenience" and "The servant is at your service, sir".

I have not seen any dictionary saying "at my convenience" or "at my service".

For example, "I'll call you at my convenience" or "Is the servant at my service?".

Some native speakers say "I'll call you at my convenience" is rude. Why is it rude?

Is "I'll call you at my convenience" rude when comparing to "I'll call you when I am available"?

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    Yes - I'll [do something] at my convenience is incredibly rude if you're saying it to someone who might reasonably have hoped / expected you to do it at their convenience! Personally, I don't think much of when I am available either. Particularly if you're dealing with a commercial customer. But really in any social interaction context where you've agreed to do something in the future (because you're currently too busy) you should be polite, and say something like at the earliest opportunity or as soon as possible. Jan 15, 2023 at 14:34
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    The idiomatic formal usage I am at your service means I am ready and willing to do anything you want me to do (metaphorically speaking, I am your servant). Servants (just one step up from "slaves") do everything at their master's convenience - no-one cares what the servant wants, or what's "convenient" for the servant. Jan 15, 2023 at 14:39
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    People in Anglophone societies don't normally have "servants" these days. Or if they do, they usually call them something less belittling, such as assistants, helpers, aides, personal secretaries. Jan 15, 2023 at 14:45
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    “At your convenience” is, I think, grounded in the polite fiction that everyone is obliged to please everybody else. When I tell you that you may do something at your convenience, I am releasing you from that obligation: “don’t try and please me, suit yourself instead”. When I say I will do something at my convenience, I’m saying that I won’t even pretend to try and please you! It rejects the “politeness protocol” entirely. Jan 16, 2023 at 12:31
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    I think replacing "at my/your convenience" with "whenever I/you want" might make the rudeness more clear. It means almost the same. "You can do that whenever you want" is a kind gesture, giving the other person control over when to do it. If you say to someone "I do that whenever I want" it's rude because it sort of implies "even if you would like me to do it another time" or "you're not the boss of me, I decide this for myself".
    – Ivo
    Jan 17, 2023 at 11:56

4 Answers 4

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Asking someone to do something at their convenience is polite (implying that you don't expect them to drop everything to oblige you), but saying that you will do something at your convenience would sound ungracious (you are only willing to help them at a time that suits you).

Saying the servant is at your service would be tautology, but introducing yourself as 'at someone's service' is a stylised way of saying "I'm here to help you" (in ways that are appropriate for your job or the circumstances).

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    No, although "...as soon as I'm available/I can/I have a free moment" would be more polite (implying that only pressure of work stops you from helping them now). Jan 15, 2023 at 16:39
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    Also note that it is a misrepresentation of the truth if you say "as soon as I can" when you really mean "when I feel like it". In that case, "at my convenience" would be both truthful and appropriate.
    – jsejcksn
    Jan 16, 2023 at 3:14
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    @jsejcksn it would be rude, and so inappropriate at any time that rudeness would be inappropriate.
    – fectin
    Jan 16, 2023 at 5:25
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    I would say that "I'll call you when I am available" is either a very weird thing to say, or just rude. It's not as bad as "at my convenience", but it's still saying "I'll call you when I damn well feel like it, and not a minute before", which might be true, but it's not the sort of thing one says if one is trying to be polite.
    – Martha
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:25
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    @Martha I completely disagree. If someone texted me and said "can you talk now" but I was busy working, it would be a perfect response to quickly text "I'll call you when I'm available." This says that I am actually unavailable right now, quite a different concept than the "I simply don't feel like it" implication of "at my convenience."
    – ErikE
    Jan 18, 2023 at 2:08
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Imagine the following scenarios:

An important client calling a company to fix an appointment with a CEO…
A developer who needs to talk with their leader about a deadline…
A parent trying to fix a meeting with the headteacher (US the principal)…
A homeowner needing to install a new kitchen sink…

When would hearing "X will arrange a meeting at his/her/their convenience” be considered polite or productive? It's an awful awful reply to someone looking for information, help, reassurance or guidance. It is saying that the person requesting assistance is way down on a list of priorities. It is telling the caller or employee the meeting will occur only when it is convenient to the CEO, project leader, headteacher etc. It simply reeks of arrogance.

I would strongly urge the OP to never say “at my convenience” to anyone asking to arrange a meeting of any sort, be it business, social or family affairs.

UPDATE
In very formal letters it was customary to soften a request with “at your earliest convenience” which is long hand for ASAP (as soon as possible). Today, the speaker or sender acknowledges that time is a commodity, so they are the ones willing to wait for a response or resolution. It is a very polite, formal way of saying an issue is important but it is not (yet) urgent.

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  • But, does "X will arrange a meeting when X is available" sound rude? Why or Why Not?
    – Tom
    Jan 15, 2023 at 16:23
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    It's still rude because it is not giving any idea of when that meeting will occur. Will it be within a couple of days, a week or even more? You do not leave a client (especially) "in limbo" so to speak. It is always better to give a date and if it means your client has to wait days or weeks, you apologise for the inconvenience this might (will) cause them. You could say something like "As soon as we can, we will inform you when a meeting can be arranged." to soften the person's disappointment or frustration.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 15, 2023 at 16:41
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"At my convenience" means "when it suits me", "at a time that is convenient for me". It puts emphasis on "me" and completely disregards the interlocutor. I can't think of an example where it doesn't sound arrogant or condescending.

You may soften it a bit by apologising, making it into a question, explaining the reason of your refusal.

I apologise, may I call you back at my earliest/first convenience? I am terribly occupied at the moment.

"At my earliest/first convenience" is a more polite expression, but still there are better (more tactful, less formal) ways to put it.

Similarly, "at my service" sounds very forward and demanding to me for the same reason: the stress on "my".

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    What about "I'll call you when I am available"? is it rude to say so?
    – Tom
    Jan 15, 2023 at 16:19
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    @Tom There will always be people who find this statement somewhat impolite. It's not a rude reply per se, it's just that there are better options. Consider "I'll call you back as soon as possible" or "I'll call you back as soon as I possibly can." Jan 16, 2023 at 7:23
  • @AndrewTobilko The problem is that "as soon as I can" is almost certainly not literally true. What if you're sitting on the toilet? You can talk, you can call the person back immediately. But you're not available for calls right now because you don't particularly like sharing bathroom noises over the phone. It's not rude to say "I'm not available to talk right now." or "I'm not available to talk until at least 5 tonight." Saying "I'll call when I'm available" indicates the same thing.
    – ErikE
    Jan 18, 2023 at 2:12
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Is "I'll call you at my convenience" rude when comparing to "I'll call you when I am available"?

This is difficult to elaborate, but "at my convenience" implies a time where the speaker will not be inconvenienced.

"When I'm available" implies a time where the speaker is able, but may be inconvenienced.

The former implies that the listener is not worthy of the speaker being inconvenienced.

An example, a friend calls you, and needs to have a chat about something important, but you are on another call.

"At my convenience" would mean "When I finish this current call, and maybe I'll have dinner, and watch that TV show that I've been wanting to see. If I have a free moment before I am sleepy, maybe I'll call, otherwise I'll call tomorrow, if I am free then. You are not important enough for me to change my plans."

"When I'm available" would mean "I really have to finish this call, I can't be on two calls at once. I am hungry, but that can wait a few minutes. I'll call you after this."

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    Note that while "...when I'm available" is less rude than "... at my convenience", that doesn't mean it's not rude.
    – Martha
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:23
  • @Martha Under what circumstances is "when I'm available" rude? Jan 17, 2023 at 0:06
  • Always - it's explicitly saying that I'm placing my desires above yours. But like I commented on one of the other answers, "...when I'm available" is just a really weird thing to say.
    – Martha
    Jan 17, 2023 at 17:32
  • @Martha Again, I have to disagree. "when I'm available" means I'm not available now. It's a simple statement of "I'm not available to talk right now. When I am, I'll call you." It leaves the reason unstated, sure, but that is not necessary.
    – ErikE
    Jan 18, 2023 at 2:10
  • "Available" means "able to avail". Stating you will do something when you able to is not rude. Lack of timeframe could be rude in some circumstances, but it itself, "when I'm available" is not rude. Jan 18, 2023 at 2:39

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