"Hey, how are you?"
"Well... I've been to the doctor and I'm waiting on the results... my kid is having trouble with her teacher -- can you imagine?... still looking for a job... did I tell you that my wife left me... and oh yeah, the air-conditioning broke down in my car and it's hot...."
Now tell me the truth: When you asked, did you really want that answer or were you citing a social formula that we all do by rote, expecting an answer of "Fine" or "All good," allowing you to move on?
Kind of like the mindless "Have a nice day" sign-off recordings you hear and can imagine being played to the guy on death row who calls his lawyer's office to see if his appeal was approved and no one was there to answer.
Or the "Thanks" that so many of us append to our electronic signatures.
And of course, the meaningless "Likes" or "Dislikes" we so fastidiously click on as we weigh in on subjects and issues with the weight and gravitas of a mere keystroke.
Once human discourse was fraught with meaning, good and bad. The study of human interaction is chock-full of social convention that was designed to keep us from killing one another because of perceived slights, and elaborate rituals that sprang to life, enabling us to communicate and discourse without getting violent, and still the history of the world is a compendium of the failure of even the most careful of social customs and rites, and we know the death and destruction that often followed... still does.
So what do we do? How do we bring real meaning to even perfunctory encounters and make those little annoying thumbs really powerful?
That's the answer -- and I thank a great teacher, RJJ, for putting this thought in my head, as it's been rattling around and around since he shared it.
What do we do when our computers freeze? What do we do when the cursor keeps blinking but nothing else happens?
We have become like our frozen computers: "How are you?"; "Have a nice day"; "Thanks"; CLICK... and I am guilty as charged myself. The cursor is blinking but nothing is moving.
Try this: The next time you see someone, don't greet them; just get on with whatever business you have to transact with them. Lose the scripted, "Hello, how are you?" and begin with your ask, or if you don't have one, just nod your head and move on.
Forget the canned "Have a nice day" and just disengage -- walk away, just like that.
And resist the urge to tap on a "Like" or "Dislike."
WHOA. Very uncomfortable, awkward and, in the case of the thumbs up/down, "itchy."
Yet as uncomfortable and awkward as it is -- I've tried it -- it makes you stop and think, and maybe ask or probe or not, a different way, a more sensitive way, a way that has meaning for both you and the other person.
RESET: If your cursor is stuck like mine -- like many of us, I imagine -- hit that button, take a step back, don't let the rote drive you, and when you ask someone "How are you," do it because you want to hear the long form, not because it's in your program.
And in that vein, a picture speaks a thousand words.
"Jeez, someone needs to push the reset button on this planet."― Libba Bray
What do you think?