I’ve noticed during recent months that co-workers, friends, and neighbors have been more intentional in checking in with each other. We might be seeing less of each other, but the times when we are together seem to be more meaningful. We are all going through the shared experience of the pandemic and although the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, we need to be more thoughtful about the way we greet each other, and I have some thoughts…
As we all seek to reach the end of the pandemic together, there is no place for the generic “How are you?” “I’m fine” greeting in the hallways as we pass each other. I’ve always had an issue with that greeting anyway – if you were REALLY interested in my answer, why did you just keep on walking before I could respond and ask the same of you in return? Not only has that greeting lost any real meaning, in these pandemic times you’re rarely going to get a meaningful response. In this article, Deborah Tannen says that “Not only does the (“How are you?”) question draw all involved parties’ attention to the terrible circumstances at hand, but the expectation of a polite response negates the possibility of an actually informative answer.” It’s easier to respond blandly with “I’m fine” than it is to go into the trials and tribulations of balancing professional and personal life while still remembering to eat.
While people might be unable to respond positively to “How are you?”, there are also some who will feel guilty about sharing a positive response. We might not have had a Billie Eilish year, a Weeknd year or a Bad Bunny year but some of us have been impacted less than others by the pandemic and it can be hard to share that openly. This blog post by adrienne marie brown provides the perfect antidote to that situation. She says “if you’re good, say you’re good. it doesn’t negate reality, it weaves your reality into the fabric of this complex time.”
Recently in response to an ‘ask me anything’ prompt on Instagram I was asked “How are you feeling?” and after reflecting, I answered truthfully, and positively. Having recently received my vaccine, and made a good start to the second semester, I am in a good place. “I’m healthy, happy, loved, and controlling the controllables”.
As someone who lives life gamefully (you have read Superbetter, haven’t you?), I seek to get the most out of all of my daily interactions with others. Just as Sonic collects rings, I’m leveling up with every smile, (virtual) fist bump, and spirit-lifting interaction….and I don’t get that from “How are you?” “I’m fine”.
So let’s consider greeting each other with a better question. Let’s set our interactions up for a more successful, oxytocin boosting outcome. Abandon the bland question, and really ask a question that opens the door to an opportunity to smile, bond, and walk away knowing that someone cares.
In a recent Peloton ride I took with Ally Love she talked about how she’s flipped the script in terms of interacting with people. She says that instead of asking people “What’s up with you?” we should ask “What’s good with you?”. She also says –
“If energy is currency then we should stop focusing on the effort, or the climb, or the heavy stuff or the chaos.
If energy is currency, I ain’t got time for that stuff”.Ally Love (30 min Pop Ride 1/21/21)
If you are asked “What’s good?” you are encouraged to share something positive in your life. By selectively focusing on the positives in your life you feed them with your energy and keep them alive. I promise you’ll smile while you’re thinking of a response, and if you tell me you can’t think of something to share, I’m going to see that as an opportunity to ask how things really are with you.“What’s good?” opens the door to a more meaningful response, which in turn encourages you to pause in the moment. This provides you with the opportunity to continue talking, and listening, in a more authentic way. Your conversation is likely to be more honest, more revealing, and will allow you both to follow up on any worries or concerns that are mentioned.
I challenge you to reframe the way you greet people today, and in the future. Maximize the potential for positivity, and embrace the opportunity to deepen your relationships with those around you.
If you liked this post, you should check out Self-Care, in which I talk about the importance of being intentional in protecting one’s well-being and happiness, which is a must-do for educators.
The concept of energy being currency comes from Thirty: A Collection of Personal Quotes, Advice and Lessons by Emily Maroutian.