If you really want to talk with someone – notice I said “with someone” rather than “at someone” – there’s one thing you can stop doing.
You can stop forming your question so you get the answer you seek.
This question immediately telegraphs the response you’re expecting to hear – or maybe even the only acceptable one you’ll tolerate hearing.
This kind of question is not really about the other person.
It’s all about you and your needs.
In essence, by asking this way, you’re saying, “Please tell me you’re feeling OK because I am worried stiff/don’t care to get involved with your nonsense/moving on to the next person I make eye contact with.”
And when you telegraph precisely what you want to hear, it’s like you don’t really care that much about what’s real. You don’t really care that much about who I am and what I’m experiencing. So guess what I do? I take the path of least resistance and simply say, “Yes.”
Indeed, I lie because it’s easy and it’s what you want to hear.
If you want to build a relationship, you sure haven’t made one step toward doing so with a question like this, have you?
The question’s kid sister is:
“Have a good day at school today, sweetie?”
Notice how there’s not much room to say, “No, mom. No, I did not. It was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.”
It’s a lot easier to say, “Yep” and go up to your room and text your real feelings to your friends who will at least listen.
At work, this type of phraseology often comes from micro-managers who pepper their people with a series of questions like:
“I hope you talked with Sarah and checked with IT, marketing and legal before you finalized the spreadsheet.”
Way to show a ton of confidence in your people there, boss. Your questions suggest everyone is untrustworthy, and no one has the ability to figure out what needs to be done. Except you, of course.
[Awesome management style, btw. Bet your people love you.]
It’s super easy to fall into the trap of talking this way. I mean, you hear it everywhere you go.
But that doesn’t mean it’s right. Or that it works, does it?
If you really want to create a connection with people instead of tear one down, simply shift the way you talk.
Instead of telling them what you want to hear, ask them what they’d like to say.
Say, “How was your day?
Say, “How are you feeling?”
Say, “What’s your homework like tonight?”
Because when you talk like that, you not only hear the other person – but you also see them.
You respect them.
Which is how every relationship get stronger, better, deeper and richer.