Mar 29, 2022
I recently dislocated my shoulder while skiing. If you’ve had this happen to you before, you know that it’s about as painful as any injury can be. Not only is the injury itself painful, but it also brought my own ski season to a halt, which isn’t that long for starters. As a Mainer, skiing has always been one of my favorite activities, so any obstacle barring me from the slopes is a major bummer. Plus, you can’t ride the Peloton or attend Pure Barre classes with a dislocated shoulder. But enough about me. The injury recently opened my eyes to a social faux pas that needs to stop. It has to do with the throwaway “how are you?” line.
When I see people in passing now, their first instinct is to ask, “How are you?” (In truth, it could be better.) But most people don’t actually mean it. They only ask to check a box, and you can tell easily. More often than not, people don’t even listen to the response and respond accordingly. Their stare goes blank. Their attention immediately wanders as soon as I begin to answer the question. This needs to stop. If you don’t actually care or have the time to listen, don’t even ask the question in the first place. Checking the box is more disrespectful than not asking at all, at least in my view.
The “how are you?” doesn’t have to be a throwaway line. On the contrary, it can be used effectively to convey care and compassion. It may even demonstrate the basic level of respect that turns strangers into acquaintances, and acquaintances into friends. If someone looks me in the eye and genuinely asks, “How are you?” listening to the tale of woe, it is always appreciated. It is greatly appreciated, which is why I do the same for others. The simple act of listening instantly makes me more interested in the other person since social interaction is a two-way street. It’s a matter of memorability. I remember that they listened and expressed concern. They don’t have to fix my shoulder; they just have to care. Compassion matters.
The article read in this episode originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice™ in February 2022.
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