Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tell Me How You Really Feel

The other day I had a strange encounter with a sales clerk. At the end of the sale, he said "Have a good day." Okay, nothing odd about that. I replied, "You too!" Again, normalcy prevails. And then he responded, "I'm trying," as he walked away with his head hanging down. I was a little taken back. What do I do? Do I just leave the store? Do I ask him if everything is alright?

The next day I was at the grocery store and the clerk asked me how I was to which I responded "Fine. How are you?" She then began to tell me her story in great detail. I found my inner dialogue telling me to back away slowly...

So why do we use phrases like "How are you?" and "Have a nice day"? Are they just greetings or are they something more? In my mind, whatever they were, they seem to be nothing more than a pleasantry. But what do we do when someone actually answers the question??

It caught me off guard and reminded me once again that there are a lot of lonely people out there. Maybe I should look at these instances as a chance to reach out. I didn't take the time to engage either of these people in conversation. Too absorbed in my own to-do list.

What are your thoughts? Should we just ask how people are doing as a greeting? What do you do when someone actually tells you?


Michael Schutz said...

Great questions. I have been preaching on this for years, and sometimes, literally preaching it. :)

This is far too often our standard greeting/response in churches too, and I would argue it hinders true community much more than it helps. It gives people a chance to hide behind pleasantries, and if I may be so bold, probably encourages people to lie more often than not.

I've told people that I don't ask this question anymore if I'm not prepared to hear the answer. It's not that I don't care how they are. In fact, maybe asking the "How are you" question only to be nice and expecting the "fine. How are you?" response is less caring! It allows us to keep on our "shiny happy people" masks on without engaging one bit with others.

So I've exhorted folks to change the culture (just a small dream, I know :) ) and not ask the question unless you really want to know. And to not answer it with, "Fine" unless that's really how you are.

Just $0.02 for you!

Rachel said...

Stuff like this allows us to connect, which is what people are really craving in this techno-loaded world. I think it's great that those people went beyond the standard greeting. Sometimes, yes, that's all it is: a politeness. But other time..ohhhh it's a chance to reach out and be Jesus! :)

Geosomin said...

Hmmm. I know we have a few grad students form other countries who do not like how casually we use "How are you" or "have a good day". They get very offended when strangers or people they don't know well at asll ask them that 0 they see it as private.
Me? Well, I find very often, people ask me it and don't ever listen to my response...I don't say it unless I am willing to listen to it...unless I want to know. Bexuase I do. Because what if you aren't having a good day? Do you lie? How hurtful would I be if I just walked away? To me, if a friend or coworker is having a bad day I'll stay and listen...
And some people never get asked. It's sad, but true...and if someone does ask them, they want to tell someone, ANYone how they are. Just cuz someone actually asked. I think it's unfiair to ask a total stranger that...although every once in a while I have asked that of a stranger, when I can see that they aren't OK...cuz I know what that can feel like. And maybe I can help...

Just my thoughts.