Have you ever thought to wonder why it is that people greet each other with the phrase, “Hi, how are you?”
We seem to use this phrase–automatically and absentmindedly-– all the time, not really wanting to dedicate time to actually listen to what the person says, or not really caring what their answer is.
If we are out and about around other people we probably hear and utter this phrase dozens of time on any given day.
Has someone ever asked you this when you were having a terrible day, or when you got some tragic news or when things were going so far from smooth you felt seconds away from coming completely unglued? And yet, you answered “good,” and then move forward on auto-pilot?
Would you agree with me when I say it can be easy to lie about what’s going on inside, to put on a good front so that people see only what you want them to see? Some of us are such good actors! It’s so easy to just say, “Good,” and leave it at that, even if it isn’t true. This tactic is much less painful than opening up and sharing a fragile piece of yourself. And in reality, most people you encounter briefly do not want to help carry your burden as they have their own troubles that they are likely dealing with.
Everyone’s life is different. But everyone has their own share of troubles and challenges–something we need to remember before we jump to conclusions about the people we encounter in our daily lives. Is she driving slowly because she just learned her Father died? Is he irritated because he just got laid off at work and doesn’t know how he is going to tell his wife? Is she battling cancer, a terminal illness, depression, physical abuse, addiction…
There is so much going on in peoples’s heads and lives that we know nothing about!
I have made a conscious effort to avoid the empty phrase, “how are you?” Instead, I sometimes ask–but ONLY if I can look the person in the eye and have time to listen to the answer–“How’s your day going?” or “Are you having a good day yet?” or “Has anything interesting/exciting/memorable/awful/ happened to you today?” The people I ask these questions to sometimes look at me funny, sometimes suspiciously, like I have some ulterior motive. Sometimes they answer automatically–the same as they would the How are you question, with a simple good, not even realizing I have asked a different question. But sometimes, they smile and open up some, offering a little more than usual. Sometimes it starts a wonderful conversation at the end of which we are both left feeling a little happier. The effort is more than worth the good feeling it sometimes leaves me with.
And that brings me to this week’s quote:
Maybe today you can make a difference in someone’s life, just by asking a different question and then truly listening to the answer.