Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How are you doing?

My boss's name is Joe. We met several years ago when he attended a class that I was teaching. He asked me to do some work for him as a consultant, which gradually grew into more work until I eventually became an employee. We have worked well together over the years, in large part because there is a mutual respect and trust between us. I really like Joe and enjoy working with him.

Joe is a very gregarious person and he has an odd habit of asking people how they are doing. When he makes a phone call--even a business call to a stranger--usually the first thing he does when the person answers the phone is ask, "How are you doing?" When someone greets him he nearly always responds with a friendly, "How are you doing?" Maybe it's a Southern thing, since he is originally from Florida.

The weird thing is, this has rubbed off on me. Without even being aware of it, I began asking people, "How are you doing?" Even, like, tech support people in India. Even telemarketers. What's even weirder is how many people have seemed mildly surprised and have even thanked me for asking them how they are doing. This is especially true of waitresses/waiters and retail salespeople and customer service representatives and cashiers. I guess, in their line of work, they get used to not being regarded as individuals worthy of a reciprocal kindness. It's weird that people would display such gratitude at being asked such a simple question.

What's weirder still is that Joe's habit which rubbed off on me has rubbed off on my wife. She does it now too. I love to see the little spark in someone's eyes when she looks at them, smiles, and asks sincerely, "How are you doing?" It's hard to be rude and imperious to your waitress after such an exchange. It sort of says, "Hey, we're all in this together."

Maybe people are just colder to one another here in the Pacific Northwest. I don't know, but isn't it weird that such a little thing as asking "How are you doing?" could be so contagious and rewarding?


Anonymous Michelle Mu said...

I do that too! (It's a habit that seemed to embarrass my kids when they were young.) It's even better when you look the person right in the eyes; then they tend to tell you, with details, how they are really doing. I know a lot about the lives of the cashiers and baggers at the grocery store nearest to my home. I agree that it is rewarding.

4:38 PM  

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