How Are You – And Do I Care?
How many times a day are you asked “How are you?” I am referring to people that are casual acquaintances we meet as we move about our public ways. In consciously observing these greetings with those that cross my path it has got me thinking about why we do this.
On the surface many seem shallow, automatic and insincere in their delivery. “Do they really want to know?” When someone begins to walk past you they might toss out a “How ya doing?” Am I supposed to respond to their backs as they move away from me? Feeling awkward but not wanting to appear rude I have done just that…which leaves me feeling awkward anyway after doing so!
Because of my conscious quest to understand this social greeting I have been noting a few times where I was about to ask the question to a person’s face and when I was about to deliver it decided against it as I questioned my own sincerity in the moment.
My summation, after thinking about this for some time now, is that primarily it’s an extension to a simple “Hi” or “Hello”.
Of course, the one that is tossed over their shoulder in passing is simply an offhand greeting; “I see you and am merely letting you know” and might require nothing more than a quick smile.
I found myself studying this at the grocery store. Many of the checkers going about their job automatically deliver the “How are you” line with a weariness of having done so for the umpteenth time in that day. They don’t appear to require an answer as their focus is on sliding my purchases over the scanner so we can finish our transaction and they can move on to the next in their line.
Regardless of the automation or tone of delivery…it leaves an opening to develop a conversation, of some sort. It is the moment to offer some social finesse and experience a “paths crossed moment” with conversation while offering some pleasure to an otherwise potentially mundane exercise of human interaction.
Instead of answering with a generic dismissive “I’m fine” I think about something positive in my day and share it. “I am enjoying the sunshine today and as you are my last stop of a long day I am looking forward to spending time in my garden upon my return home.” This might elicit a conversation about what I have growing in it and suddenly we are sharing a moment. It’s really an opportunity…should one choose to see it that way!
I might turn it back to them. There is a very sweet gray haired woman that works at the service desk where multi-tasking is a part of her job. That day, as many others, I had to wait a while for her to get to me. It’s easy to be patient when you see someone working so diligently! She apologized for my wait and after she asked how I was…I told her I had no complaints this fine day and life is good. (Even if it was a crappy day…I do not need to share it with her.) Then I told her I noticed how busy she always is and how she seems to maintain a sunny attitude. She stopped what she was doing for me and looked me in the eye with a genuine grateful smile…taking her time to answer. She said she appreciated very much my observation and said she wished more customers were as nice as I was in saying so. She finished by telling me that some people can be very unkind.
I had another young checker, after her automatic “How are you?” who I asked how her day was going and what side of her shift she was on she responded by telling me she was off in an hour and with a tired sigh told me she had to go to school when she got off. I smiled and said “Ah, then you will be spending time for yourself and your future!” She appeared to stop and think about this and smiled quickly back at me. She told me she never thought about it that way and she would remember that….thank you she said, with sincerity.
In our busy lives remember how initiating a human connection…even if brief…and how uplifting for that moment by taking time to do this by extending compassion for another soul can be uplifting for both sides. We leave the situation with a spring in our step and the goodwill left behind can be considerable.
All this from a simple vague “How are you?” : )
However busy and hectic your days might be…I hope you find some healthy quiet repose time in this the beautiful colorful growth time of Summer. Enjoy those joyful times by being in them exclusively without worry of past or future…solely in the moment!
Peace On Your Path
As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. Carl Jung