When someone asks “how are you”, do they really care? Is the response we give authentic or honest or caring? In the middle of a pandemic, there is no more important first question to ask our family, coworkers, friends or neighbors. In the grip of fear that people are experiencing, a little caring goes a long way. This golden question that has most often been a short verbal handshake is just the simplest and easiest way to connect in a meaningful way.
Ask with Kindness
Before the coronavirus pandemic, most of us went about our lives and our days oblivious to others’ state of being. The fast pace, full plate, busy social calendar and stressed out life style lived closed us off from connecting with others. People need connection. To be certain, everyone prefers connecting in very different ways. But at our core, we all want to be seen. We all want to be acknowledged as a human being. The brush off “how are you?” just a few weeks ago meant nothing. It will still mean nothing if we don’t put the energy of caring behind the words.
When you have heard “how are you?” spoken and the person asking actually wants to know the answer, it is really odd. As the one asking, we have to remember how that feels. Kindly speaking those three words gets attention. Say it slowly. Say it clearly. And then stop at just three words. We can anticipate an “Oh, you’re serious, you want to know.”
Pause to Listen
In the seconds that follow, the other’s mind is racing for meaning, formulating a response, questioning whether the other really cares, making sure not to be too vulnerable, and so on all in a few seconds. Let that happen. Let it get uncomfortable at first. Just smile and wait.
What happens next will blow you away! People WANT TO BE HEARD. Rarely do others take the time to listen. If the answer to those three words, “how are you” feels like a brush off with a generic “good”, then it is. Just wait a little more. The next part of the answer given likely goes deeper if the other wants to be heard. And then deeper and deeper as the words tumble out. Because a pause is a calm and caring space, it may be one of the most important moments in someone’s life to feel the caring offered.
Say Thank you
However short or long, light or heavy, the caring thing to do next when asking “how are you” is to acknowledge how the other is doing in that moment. By knowing we have to acknowledge and use the other’s words to show that they were heard, this allows us to stay very present and listening. For anyone who actually shares with us how they are doing, that vulnerable step deserves acknowledgement.
When they are finished, simply say “thank you.” That was a big step for both. That was a caring or healing or bonding moment for both. That was a human moment needed right now. Expressing gratitude is in our wiring.
We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before. All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.