A Question For You
This is not a trick
Hello! Long time, no see. How ya been?
Hey, How ya doin’?
Hi, How are you?
Of the three greetings above, which do you hear most often? Your answer may depend on where you’re from or living now or who you hang out with most often.
In any case, the question part of the greeting poses a quandary for me. Most people don’t take the question too literally and will answer with a quick “Good, how about you?” But some will respond with the dreaded factual response, which is considerably longer and may include a tale of some misfortune.
Therein lies my quandary. It’s not that I don’t want to hear their responses. I simply don’t know how to formulate mine. I strive for authenticity. So, do I tell the truth? If so, in how much detail?
Then I get to the part of trying to decide if I truly want to know how they are. I can tell you that I know people who will never hear that question from me unless I have a deep desire to get depressed or learn of new illnesses.
The bottom line on all this is not that I don’t care about others or their lives and health, but what are the guidelines that determine the boundary between information of true value and TMI? I ask only because I don’t want to cross that line in my authentic response.
I have an aversion to small talk. Not that I mind the occasional weather commentary in the grocery line or engaging in creative repartee, but overall I want to avoid spending valuable time talking chit chat.
The resolution of my quandary, then, would be not to ask “How are you?” But the question is so ingrained in our culture’s accepted greeting that it’s almost unavoidable. And, like most oft-repeated phrases, it’s become meaningless.
Outside of a doctor’s visit or conversation with a loved one, the question is rarely asked with sincere desire to know “how” you are. That explains why a response of “Good” or “Fine” suffices and advances the conversation to the real topic, which could range from What are you doing Saturday night? to Can I borrow your diamond earrings to wear to a fundraiser I’m attending this weekend? to a myriad of other more specific, if not essential, topics.
And that brings me to the real subject on my mind. Clichés arise from phrases so overused that the meaning is lost. Continued use of clichés leads to a dulling of the senses and intelligence. You simply stop thinking because you will give the rote answer to the query.
So, I propose to change the question following your word choice of greeting to Why are you?
This will initially create a lot of silence in conversations. Not many people will know how to respond. But after some thought, it could lead to some truly interesting exchanges. Or, it could lead to a very short conversation, which may be a blessing in disguise.
If Why are you? catches on and more people ask and are asked that question, it could lead to more introspection and actual thinking instead of conditioned responses, which would lead to more meaningful conversations.
But the value of pondering Why are you? is not limited to your interaction with others. More importantly, it encourages you to think about your relationship with yourself as well as the world around you.
As a former editor and writing coach, I can tell you that eliminating descriptive adjectives (e.g., good, bad, pretty, ugly, fat, thin) increases the strength of the copy. Powerful writing get its strength from the ideas and meaning of key words without the fluff.
Same with life. Simply focusing on purpose (your why) will divert attention from the adjectives (your how) and increase the positive impact of your existence and significance in the world.
I think most people avoid defining their purpose because they believe it has to be of grandiose scale. Yet simply being a good parent, a helpful teacher or neighbor, a doer of good deeds, and showing kindness are essential to creating an environment that lifts the energy of the planet. There is no hierarchy in purpose as long as it serves the highest good of all.
The question Why are you? and subsequent reflection will require a shift for most of us. It’s not what we’re used to and it may be uncomfortable at first. But if used often enough by enough people, that one question could change the prevailing focus on the planet from separation and division to oneness and unity.
If used often enough by enough people, that one question could change the prevailing focus on the planet from separation and division to oneness and unity.
Think about it. In greeting, you ask someone their why. They answer, I’m here to plant beautiful gardens, or I’m here to prepare nutritious meals, or I’m here to care for children, or I’m here to bring laughter and smiles. And you reply with your why. Now you know how you’re connected. You know that you rely on this person for your food, visual stimulation, entertainment, or service. And they know the same about you.
And if enough of us stop the old, meaningless questioning, eventually there will be a paradigm shift. That means that as new children are born into this world, they will hear Why are you? from the beginning of their socialization process. And that will produce a generation of individuals who think about their purpose in life from the onset of their lives.
What a difference that could make in the world. A population of people who think for themselves and about their relationship with society. All by simply pondering their why.
So, dear readers, why are you? Take your time to think about it, if necessary. I’d love to hear your responses. Please leave a comment. And remember,
There is no hierarchy in purpose as long as it serves the highest good of all.