When they ask, what do you say?

It was quite some time ago.

I noticed how I’d gotten into a certain habit. 

You know how you run into someone in the office, or at the bus stop or in the grocery store that you know vaguely.  And they say ‘good morning, how are you?’

Well, I’d  been answering, ‘okay thanks, and you?’

Now of course, there was no thought or meaning in this.  It was just a polite return of a question that was asked from habit without either of the people involved having any particular desire for an answer or any inclination to even listen to the answer.

We do this all the time, right?

Though there is no thought or meaning in our response, it does matter.  You see I found myself dismissing those momentary interactions as irrelevant and unimportant.  I would forget instantly that I had met someone I knew and I assumed it had no effect on me or my day. 

But what was happening was very subtle.  It was a missed opportunity for connection and it set the tone for other interactions that were happening throughout my day. 

It’s like when you work or live in a very beautiful place but after a while you get used to the view and you hardly notice it.  It’s a missed opportunity to observe and be influenced by the beauty around you.  We simply stop noticing.  We don’t appreciate the possibility.  We lose out.

Well, one day it all changed.  You see I decided to change my answer.   I made a very simple decision that any time anyone asked me how I am, I would answer ‘great’ or ‘fantastic’ or ‘wonderful’.  I wanted to see what would happen.  I wanted to see if it made any difference.

And what a difference it made!  It was astounding.  From that day on, people smiled and connected and I got to feel a tiny moment of joy.  I realized that the more I said ‘great’ and ‘fantastic’, the more ‘great’ and ‘fantastic’ I actually felt.

What a difference a simple word makes!

But you know, it’s not just the word, it’s the story you’re telling.  When I decide that my day is going to be great, I get to tell a very different story.  I get to experience and create a very different reality.  There’s so much more possibility and presence in my every waking moment. 

It reminds me of the wonderful words of THich Nhat Hanh in Peace is Every Step.  He says:

“Our smile will bring happiness to us and to those around us.  Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them as much happiness as the gift of our awareness, our smile.”

Our smile, our words, our presence can bring such happiness.  It’s so simple.  It’s just about noticing who you are being in that moment.

What will you choose to say today when someone asks?

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4 comments on “When they ask, what do you say?

  1. Dear Lisa,
    I have a story to tell 🙂
    I am Hungarian, and in our country the 'Hi, How are you?' frase was unknown when I was a child. When in 2005 I've stared to work at an American multinational company, I've had colleagues and contacts from the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland too. To be honest, the above question irritated me a lot for 2 things: 1. In working relationships I did not feel like talking about myself and the question implicated this 2. It felt that they did not mean it, so why asking it all the time?
    The last few years this has changed a lot, but In our culture we usually call, tell why we called, and then ask: '… and by the way, how are you?' when we have time and are truly interested. So I thought my feelings were correct, and THEY were wrong. Then spent a few months in Ireland, and later about a year in London and Coventry. Finally the penny dropped. I've realised that if I used it honestly to express openness to the other person, small talk is much easier, and getting the business done is somewhat quicker. So I agree with you, it actually matters how we react to this simple courtesy…

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