This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
I caught myself faking it last week. She who prides herself on “getting real.”
It was—what shall I call it—an unexpected kind of morning on the heels of very little sleep for a lot of people (myself included) as a result of watching U.S. election returns until the wee hours.
During my first call of the day, a client I don’t yet know very well initiated the usual pleasantries, asking, “How are you?” Without even thinking, I said, “I’m great! How are you?” It was immediately clear he wasn’t great. Truth be told, neither was I. Only I wasn’t telling the truth.
But I wasn’t exactly telling a lie, either—at least not deliberately. I was just on auto-pilot. It’s what I pretty much always say when someone asks me how I am. Sometimes it’s an accurate answer; sometimes it’s a declaration to boost my mood; mostly it’s a reflex.
When I realized the disconnect between my answer and my reality (and my client’s), I said, “Wow, listen to me saying ‘great,’ on auto-pilot. That’s not a very accurate word.” My client proceeded to open up a bit about how he was feeling that morning.
Thirty minutes later, this time on a call with a long-time colleague, I fell into the exact same trap. “Really?” I thought to myself. So I fessed up again: “You know, this is the second time this morning that I’ve caught myself giving an answer I don’t really mean.”
As the day progressed, I found more authentic answers to the “How are you” question. My two favorite replies to people I didn’t know very well, or people I knew (or suspected) were having a different kind of day:
- “I’m sleep-deprived.”
- “You know, I’m not sure how to answer that today.”
I like these responses better because they’re honest without being insensitive or unnecessarily provocative.
It’s not that I’m against meaningful dialogue about charged issues, or even against social pleasantries—there’s most certainly a time and a place for both. It just seems like we might all benefit from finding ways to fake it less when we’re chit-chatting, and thereby build faster connections with people that pave the way for more meaningful dialogue.
Make It Real
This week, discover your auto-pilot answers to questions like, “How are you?” and look for opportunities to respond more authentically.
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