As I was leaving the office yesterday I ran into an associate and friend that I had not seen in a while. We chatted and caught up quickly about work then she asked how I was doing. I did the unthinkable; I was honest with her.
Thinking about the interaction in my car after I left the office I recalled another business relationship with a man that had a way of giving to much information when asked “ how are you” – so I got in the habit each time I saw him of telling him I was going to ask him how he was and I wanted him to lie and say “fine.” It was funny; I think he knew that I liked him and cared, but he didn’t have to spill the beans; and the end result was a pretty satisfying relationship for both of us.
I think we could all do better at setting clear expectations in relationships; letting people know what we need and what we don’t and still letting them know we care and that they matter. I have found very little value in sharing all the details, but a whole lot of satisfaction in small sincere gestures and affirmations.
My favorite aunt was pretty hip; although significantly older than my mother she tried to stay with the times. I recall shopping with her for a formal dance dress when I was in high school; she asked me what she was allowed to say and what was off limits in regards to apparel commentary. I don’t recall what I responded but I used that format to set up situations many times in my life; always recalling her question and sincere look of interest in my response.
And the fact is it works. When a friend says, “I have something to tell you” I will ask “what do you want me to say in response?” While people don’t always understand why I ask this at first, after you explain it they get it and there is almost comfort in the sharing that happens because the worry around how you will respond has been eliminated from the interaction.
By the way, as I was saying goodbye to my friend at work I asked her while laughing, “Are you sorry you asked me how I am doing?” She grabbed me for a hug and said “Never! “ She’s a keeper and I am thankful for friends like her.