When my children have a dispute (which is like several times throughout the day, every other day! ), sometimes I come in as the judge and often, one of them will have to apologize to the other, following my ruling . In these cases I encourage the one on the wrong to look into the other’s eyes and say “I am sorry”. I do it not just because I read it somewhere and thought it is cool (I did! ) but also because I know most of the time, it takes a really repentant person to look you in the eye and apologize. My girls, 6 and 4 might not understand the depth of it right now but I am old enough to understand that making eye contact takes away the pretense..
I once bumped into a work colleague in the office gossip den kitchen where I worked. I hadn’t seen him in a while. I therefore assumed he had been on leave. Without looking up from what I was rinsing, I asked him , “So, how was leave?” . A simple question. Mostly answered by, “Leave was OK” or something to that effect. That is what I expected, no, hoped to hear.
I should have shut up. If I had shut up, I could have saved this guy the agony of explaining how his ‘leave’ had been. But because I was in a chatty mood I had gone ahead and asked. We were not friends with this guy, even, just work colleagues.
I knew something was wrong when he hesitated a bit before answering.
Apparently, he not been on leave – he had gone to bury his relative. He went ahead and told me that unfortunately, what was supposed to be one funeral in his extended family, had turned out to be three funerals, because as they were arranging the funeral of the first relative, he lost yet another relative and just when he was scheduled to go back to work after burying the second relative, he lost his father.
Talk about biting more than you can chew. The truth is that I was not ready for this answer or anything close to it. In fact, I was not ready for any other answer apart from “it was OK” or “it was great”. Of course what followed was my profuse apologies for his loss(es).
Then it hit me. My “how was leave?” was more of a formality than anything else. I just asked “how was leave” for the sake of it.
I was ashamed of myself.
Right at that moment, I hated myself for asking this guy “how was leave”, not out of genuine interest but just to start a conversation. And right there was my lesson : Take time to actually mean it when you ask someone “ how was your weekend?”. Be genuinely interested in their answer when you ask somebody “how are you?”…
Here’s my challenge to you : Before you ask anyone “how are you doing?” take time to mean it. You will notice, even your tone will be different. If they are there with you, look into their eyes when you ask. Either mean it when you ask or don’t ask at all!
Meanwhile, I continue imparting this knowledge to my kids. Some day when they are old enough, they might be able to tell the difference between a genuine “I love you” and a not so genuine one.