They told me to write an engaging title. Well, I had a title last night as I drifted off to sleep.
"Write it down." I told myself.
It was simplistic and I had convinced myself I would remember. Something as intrinsic as greeting someone upon arrival. Now something comes to me, though I'm sure it's not the brilliant idea I had originally planned to expand on. I suppose greeting someone is a very good place to start.
Hi, how are you?
Such a simple difference this question can make, yet I often fail to complete the connection. I am guilty of not answering people when they ask me how I am doing, at least not honestly. I'll gloss over the question and politely say hello back. Worse, at times I ignore the social cue altogether and decide an awkward smirk is more sufficient for the situation. I don't even say hello to some people at work until I'm ready. Maybe a raise in the eyebrows. Ah yes, connection has been made. I simply don't feel it makes a difference to say hello unless you want to hear the answer.
So let's analyze this 'social norm' of asking one another how we are. What are we gaging? Do we really care? Why do we ask? Are we mindlessly following rules, not having stopped to reflect on our intentions in these every day connections?
Let me dial back a bit.
Why do you ask someone how they are? I presume for most people, there are two versions of this greeting: Fear or Love. Let me explain.
We know the love path, I ask you how you are because I am concerned, curious, compassionate, or connecting. When I am concerned for you, I am checking in on your well-being. If I am curious to know, perhaps I am just now meeting you or haven't seen you for some time. When I am compassionate, I sense uneasiness and want to comfort you. And when I am genuinely connecting, it is as simple as acknowledging that you are human, we are here, and we are one. All of these root themselves in love and are overall a tool for creating a space to listen. Did you notice that all of these love based intentions are about the OTHER person?
How are you? is what I am supposed to say, so I do, because I follow rules, because I do what's RIGHT. Look, I asked that person how they are because I'm a good person. Not because I care what the answer is, but because I (ME) did that good thing!
How are you? Because I don't want to talk about myself because I fear that I am not enough. Furthermore, if you were to honestly listen to what I have to say, I'm not sure you would like what you hear and who wants to bare their soul in front of someone only to have them lose interest?
How are you? Because if I answer I may speak with such rapidfire, that this question stops being an invitation to connect, but rather a platform for me to go off about all my emotional baggage which I refuse to look at or deal with.
My favorite fear based greeting to observe is the tentative approach, how are you? When people ask merely to gage how afraid of you they should feel. Literally handing you their power, saying, should I be nervous right now? Because I'm allowing you to decide my mood.
Not calling a spade a spade and reminding you to snap out of it. Clearly seeing how you are, and then tiptoeing to check in.
How are you?
No surprise to anyone that fear based actions swim in a pool of ego and self-interest. Because when we fear, we are too focused on ourselves.
"I want to feel comfortable so please take the spotlight off of me."
Because comfort is darkness and anonymity, at least in New York.
I ask people how they are when I want them to take hold of the conversation. Maybe it's lazy, but pushing the focus to the other person takes pressure away from needing to captivate on impact. People will talk about themselves if you let them. I ask people to lead because I like to see what they're selling (so to speak) before I dive in. Some may call it judging, I call it conserving my energy.
I want you to talk so I can find the magic in the words you give me. I search for inspiration and a common thread on which we can connect. That's why I listen, so I can find me in you.
When I ask you how you are, I'm prepared to listen. Imagine that! How often do you ask someone how they are without waiting to hear the answer?
It's a nicety. And it can become an empty gesture when it's thrown out. Furthermore, words become powerless when they are only used to fill space.
So who's to say that other people aren't honestly listening for my response? Perhaps when people ask me how I am, they, too would like to hear what I have to say. After all, here I am boasting about my genuine desire to listen (WHEN PROMPTED), but I won't give others the same credit.
Must be that ego again.
Not everyone deserves a full piece of you to take with them. Some are just asking how you are so they can feel good about themselves, some just want to move on to the next, but many ask, because they want to know.
How are you?
What en engaging title.