So, I’m considering running a little experiment. I’ve noticed over my short lifetime that people are not nearly as sincere as they proclaim to be.
Especially here in America, we’ve developed this list of cliché sayings and questions that we spew out at the right times in order to seem interested, sincere, intelligent, or passionate. But the question is, how many of us really care?
For me the epitome of these passive care statements is, “how are you doing?” How many of ask this question every day. More than that, I’d wonder how many times a day we ask or are asked this question by others. Just think of it. I would guesstimate, I am involved in an exchange with this question at somewhere around 10 times a day.
The thing is though… The people asking me this question, for the most part, don’t really care about the answer (or at least not the true answer). Matter of fact, I’ve asked this question many times and not even stopped to hear the response. We’re just so used to either saying or hearing “fine” or “pretty good” we just breeze over it like it’s no big deal. In fact I’ve even caught myself giving the WRONG answer to the question before. Someone will say “hello” to me, and I’ll answer, “fine, thanks”. I’ve become so accustomed to hearing “how are you” and giving my robotic response, I’m not even listening to the question any longer.
When I really realized I was doing this, I was appalled at myself. Had I become so desensitized to the humans around me that I honestly no longer cared about their well-being? I found I wasn’t only doing this with strangers, but even with friends of mine. What a terrible person I was. (okay I’m not terrible, but still) I know I wasn’t the only one doing it either.
So lately, I’ve been taking this question much more serious, and even a little deeper. You know how I am. So, now whenever I ask someone how they are doing or how their day is going, I now take a moment to actually listen for the response. And you know what? It made a difference. When people noticed that I was actually listening, they started to tell me the truth. They began to actually fill me in on their lives and what was going on, good and bad. I began to make stronger connections with the people I met and those I already knew.
In fact, I even had someone tell me a few weeks ago, I was the only person they believed really cared about how they were. She told me, anytime I asked how she was doing, she felt like I really wanted to know and really cared about her answer. And to be honest, I did.
What if we all actually cared? What if, the next time you ask someone, “how are you” and they say “fine” you pause and allow some silence in the moment. Give them an opportunity to expand on their answer. This simple tactic can grow seemingly insignificant acquaintances into genuine relationships.
So, back to my experiment. I’ve taken the time to care about the answers I’ve been receiving. Now I’m going to the other side. The next time someone asks me how I am, I’m going to give them the truth. No matter how beautiful or ugly that truth may be at the moment, I’m going to give the truth. I believe, if nothing else, this could be a great screening tool for who is or should really be a part of my circle.
Now of course, I’m not going to tell everybody all my business. I won’t be telling a complete stranger that I’m getting evicted from my home, that my wife is abusive, etc. Then again, maybe I will. One thing I’ve learned is you never know where your next blessing may come from. So if I’m going through some sort of turmoil in my life during that time, I might just let it all out. That person might have the connection I need, or be the listening ear I’ve been waiting for, or maybe they’ll feel extremely awkward and never speak to me again. Either way, I think we all need a little bit more transparency in our lives.
We’ve been trained over these past 30 or so years to keep everything to ourselves. Never fill anyone in on the intimate details of your life. Don’t tell people about your relationships, they’ll destroy them. Don’t tell people what’s going on in your life, they only want you to fail. Where did this fear of sharing come from? Is this why we’ve become such a disconnected society, because we’re afraid to share our lives with others?
There are so many of us out there who feel like we go through our trouble alone. I even been in situations where something amazing has happened and I’ve had nobody to celebrate with. What if you met me in the grocery store and I was willing to celebrate in the aisle with you? Or, what if you speak to me in the elevator on the way to work, and I’m able to provide a solution to your problem, all because you shared the truth?
I’ll let you all know how this experiment goes. It is certainly going to be interesting if nothing else. I wonder how it will be received. I will certainly find out how much people truly care about how people are… Stay tuned!