You may know that one of my core values is learning.
There’s nothing I love more than digging in, coming to understanding and integrating that knowledge into my life.
I know, it makes me so fun to be around at parties.
One of the most important learnings of the last ten years has been around how to speak.
Yes, it’s entirely possible that I emerged from the womb reciting Elizabeth Barrett Browning – but that’s talking and anyone can do that.
What I’m talking about is speaking in a way that opens up conversation and relationships.
The simple rule I’ve learned is: Ask so that others can answer fully, and truthfully.
Here’s the example:
“Are you having a good day?”
“How’s your day?”
In the first instance, the way you’ve constructed the question suggests that the listener needs to experience a “good day” to be in your good graces. You are, in fact, telling them what to feel.
Maybe your intention is to keep things light, superficial. Or you think you’re being optimistic and sunny, all Law of Attraction-y. Regardless, the result is the person responds with, “Yeah…sure”, which might be untrue, and your relationship is now touched by that small little lie.
But when you simply ask, “How’s your day?”, you allow a response that’s real. The person can say what’s on their mind, something like: “It’s a tough day – I had to put my dog down.” How honest. How revealing. How real.
Then you can be with that person, in that moment, in their reality and sorrow.
You have an opportunity to be a supportive friend, family member, colleague. You can know them more fully by understanding their truth. And they can know you, too, by experiencing your kindness.
Yes, being empathetic might take something from you. And you might feel like you’re not up to the task.
I imagine you are, though. Because I know you’re a kind, thoughtful, compassionate person who wants close connections with others.
You can do it. You can be open to hearing the truth, and dealing with whatever that truth brings along with it.
So, say this: “How are you feeling?” rather than “Feeling good?”
Say, “Where are you on the Framastam contract?” rather than “Are you done with the Framastam contract yet?”
Say, “What are your plans tonight?” rather than “You’re not going to that block party on Garfield St., are you?”
Say, “What do you think of the succotash?” rather than “Don’t you love this succotash?”
You can open doors with the questions you ask, or you can close them. It’s a powerfully simple learning that leads to a fuller, richer experience for all involved.