Some years ago, I ran across a person who asked me, “How’s it going?”. I issued the standard answer, “fine,” thinking nothing of it. End of conversation, nothing interesting said.
For those of you outside the US, you need to understand that this is a totally normal interchange. The real intent of it is to acknowledge the other person’s existence, without having any actual investment in the relationship. It’s equivalent to each person saying “hello,” but only slightly less boring.
What was interesting this time was that the other person then proceeded to ask me, “What would it take to change it from ‘fine’ to ‘wonderful’?” Now THIS was a question worth considering. We had a conversation going.
Ultimately we explored the impact that these kinds of words have on your own thinking. Since then, I’ve been running an experiment. When someone asks me, “How’s it going?”, I generally answer “wonderful!” or “fantastic!” or something similar. Then I observe the impact that it has on the other person. Usually, it gives them pause, and can even create an actual conversation.
I’m also looking to see what effect it has on my own attitude. I’ve found that it does indeed improve my own mindset. Because I’m being more positive in front of someone else, it makes me more positive to myself.
So here’s the experiment that I’d like you to run during this season of gratitude: When you have an interaction with someone, no matter how small, express something more positive than you would normally say and feel. Instead of feeling just OK, say that you’re “great!”. If you appreciate the help that someone offered, tell them that you’re REALLY grateful and would be honored to help them out next time.
It’s an experiment, so it’s OK if it doesn’t work out the way you’d expect.
Look at how it engages the other person differently. If you’re being authentic, they’ll probably adopt a more positive attitude in response. And I would guess that your own frame of mind will shift as well.
When you tell ten people that you’re “fine…” then you’ll just feel fine. Maybe. When you tell ten people that your day is becoming awesome, you’ll feel … quite a bit better than just fine. Maybe not actually awesome, but a lot closer than when you started.
The next step, if you have the courage, is to look for opportunities to give people gratitude and positive vibes even when they don’t ask for it. Go ahead, shock your boss by telling her something specific that you appreciated. Do it once a week, and your boss might start thinking that you’re a more valuable worker because you actually enjoy working for her.
Those folks over in the other department that you’re always griping about? Find some things that you appreciate about them, and let them know. They’ll start feeling better about helping you, rather than just considering you as an annoyance.
And your family? Tell them you love them. For real.