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Don’t Ask Me How I Am Doing…

unless you really want to know, have the time to listen, care about what’s going on for me.  We have become a fast talking, fast walking people, who rarely look each other in the eye as we ask the question or find the moment to hear the answer.

Asking someone how they are doing, how they are feeling, what’s going on for them is an important and personal question and most of us just answer “fine thanks” because we are either in the same hurried state or we know they are not really listening.   We call it ‘just making conversation’, even though we rarely actually have one.   What would you do if someone told you they were suffering, were hungry, had lost their pet, had lost their job, were lost themselves? Would it stop you in your tracks, would you even hear them, or would you already be so far away from them, you miss their response.  Could you stop what you were doing, be a little later for where you are going, could you stand or sit with them and look them in the eyes, take the time to hear them, and offer them an ear, some compassion. Could you make that moment about ‘them’ and not about ‘you’, could you pull yourself away from your business, your to do list, your quick pace, your distracted self, long enough to lean into someone else’s humanity, possibly someone you don’t know well. Would you take the time to get to know them, to make a human connection? After all, isn’t that what that question is intended to do?

I recall, years ago, when I worked in Toronto, our corporation implemented a new strategy intended to bring the management down to the people, to make more of a connection with staff.  Every morning for a few weeks, one of the vice presidents, walked the floors asking the staff ‘”how are you doing?”  And as an experiment, I offered up an array of answers.  They included “my cat died (I didn’t have a cat), my car broke down on the way here today, my husband left me this weekend, my mother is very ill, and I am not loving this job.  Not once, did he stop or even take a step back or a second look around at me as he passed through our department.  He wasn’t listening and didn’t honestly care about me or my situation, and while I knew it was just part of the latest strategy imposed on him by a consultant’s suggestions, imagine how it would have turned out, had he stopped long enough for the answer, or truly been interested in the exercise.  He could have become connected in a way he had never been before and built relationships with those who helped make a difference every day in a workplace where he spent most of his waking hours; what a missed opportunity; for him and for us.

We are all missing an opportunity; to connect not only to other humans but to our own humanity when we fail to engage in a meaningful way with those who share our space, our streets, our community, our planet.  We are not just here to get things done, we are here to ‘get each other’, to find meaning in being together and to help light each other’s way.

We are here to be fully present, to be ‘aware’, in the moment; grounded in the space we are standing, aware of what and who is among us, and to connect with one another in a meaningful way.  What is the point if you spend all your time ‘doing’ and no time ‘being’ with your tribe, which by the way, is every one of us.

Author, Don Miguel Ruiz asks us to be “impeccable with our word” and to have integrity and meaning in what we say.  So you have a choice; either ask the question and be prepared to listen, or simply walk by and share a smile.   Either one is appropriate, as long as it’s authentic.

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