Thursday, June 9, 2016
How are you?
I know at least for me, there used to be a little voice in the back of my mind that said, "They don't REALLY care how I am. She was just being nice. It's her job at the store to ask those questions."
Sometimes that was true. I could sense that the person didn't care. But that doesn't change the fact that a part of me was afraid to engage the other person. What did it matter? We'd only talk for 10 seconds anyway. Why bother being open and vulnerable?
It wasn't until a few years ago that I decided to make my best conscious effort to answer "How are you?" honestly. Some days that means I'm wonderful, delighted, having a great day, or simply feeling well.
Other days, I answer more somberly. For example, I'll tell people that I am "Tired," "Sad," "Very upset" or "I'm having a really difficult day/week/month/holiday season." Sometimes people don't know how to respond to that.
Answering "How are you?" candidly is out of the norm. Unexpected. Vulnerable. All the things that people usually try to avoid (consciously or subconsciously).
The thing is, when we answer unconsciously with socially expected and accepted responses, we become robbers.
We rob the other person of the opportunity to engage with the world in a more alive way. We rob ourselves of that same opportunity. We also rob ourselves of living presently, consciously, and authentically.
We rob ourselves and others of the opportunity to make new friends, new connections, share our experiences and insights, and most importantly - share our our humanity.
It is risky to be vulnerable.
Part of us fears rejection. Part of us worries about what the other person will think if we were REALLY candid about how we are.
Those are normal aspects of our social survival instincts. It's the pack mentality that says "If I don't conform to what I think others expect of me, I might not get what I want. I might be rejected. I might not survive."
It doesn't just happen in supermarkets and stores though. This is most readily seen in social functions with family, friends, coworkers. It happens in almost every walk of life where "How are you?" is a frequent question.
In those contexts most people rarely answer honestly. "Good" and "great" become coverups for the real inner thoughts like "My life is in total shambles and I'm grateful just to be out of the house. Would you please pour me a glass of that wine?"
Being open and candid is not easy. Few of us were given working examples, the tools, and the support to be vulnerable, authentic, and candid.
Fortunately, every day we have an opportunity to change that in a safe way.
Where and how?
The supermarket :)
Next time somebody asks you "How are you?" pause for a brief moment and answer honestly.
See how the moment unfolds. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but I guarantee you this: Do it enough times, and you will experience ever increasing degrees of inner freedom and peace.
Because you're no longer silencing the true essential nature of yourself that WANTS to be authentic and connect with others...
Even if it be for just a brief moment.
Your Partner In Connecting Authentically,
P.S. After you answer, remember to ask the other person how he or she is. Ask honestly and listen to the response.
You'll be amazed how many people are willing to also be candid, open up, and connect when you give them a live working example to follow and a compassionate smile to support them.