Here we sit, suspended between Christmas and the New Year, in this reflective week where we straddle 2015 and 2016. Like me, you may find yourself looking backward to inform how you want to move forward in the new year and drafting your resolutions. I haven’t had to reach too far back to find fuel for my first resolution of the new year. Over the past few days, I’ve been recalling my recent holiday interactions with family and friends in particular.
In some cases, I’ve spent long stretches of time with some of them and yet not experienced a true connection. In other cases, a quick breakfast or phone call yielded that warm glow that Hallmark reminds us we should feel at this time of year. What made the difference between the two situations? It often boiled down to one thing—which exchanges made me feel seen and cared about? In a world where life can be far too complicated, I look for simplicity, and it’s this simple…who asked “how are you?” and really cared to know? In which exchanges did we really wonder with sincere interest about the other? And who asked simply as an entre for telling me all about how THEY are…or asked but didn’t really listen to my reply–both the words and the emotions. And where was I guilty of the same?
This phenomenon isn’t limited to the holidays or our personal lives. All year long, I work with leaders who want to know how to make a difference, how to connect with staff, keep their fingers on the pulse of the organization, boost morale, gain respect, reduce turnover, and communicate value. Seems to me all of that could be helped along by one question in the new year—“how are you?” –delivered sincerely and followed up by a deep listening–the kind of listening that would have you pass the hypothetical pop quiz about their answer.
So as you utter the 3 words that usher in 2016 with folks—“happy new year!”–consider following them up with 3 other words—“how are you?”—and then just listen. Their answers may shift from “fine” to something more telling.
With this resolution enacted, we’ll be on our way to being more impactful leaders, friends, and family members.
(By the way, how are YOU?—I’d love to hear. Really! Oh, yes, and Happy New Year too! )