Increasingly, I am opting out of the typical, American greeting which is some variety of:
Hi, how are you?
Fine, thanks, and you?
Doing fine, thanks.
My reason for opting out is that in my experience, no one is doing “fine/great/well” all the time. This ritual greeting has lost meaning for me, because it fails to express the reality of my dynamic state from day-to-day, and moment-to-moment. I strive to avoid fluff, and “autopilot communicating” in my dealings with people. If I am asked about my status, my answer is an honest one, and usually based on how I am feeling in the moment. If I initiate the conversation, I will perhaps simply offer “Good morning” or “Hello” without the overt request to know the other person’s status. I welcome the information if he or she cares to share. This approach reflects my focus on clarity and honesty, which I am building into all aspects of my life.
It can feel uncomfortable operating in this mode, when interacting with other people. It is remarkable how much meaningless filler can dominate conversations. Without easy filler to fall back on, gaps in the conversation might crop up. In that moment, there is a choice to make. Instead of rushing to fill the gap, I am interested in seeing what rises to the surface in my mind, which either represents a genuine mutual point of interest, or is something that I truly desire to share or ask. If nothing comes up, then I am OK with silently taking the moment in.
Internally, I am engaged in a similar effort to drop automated and inherited patterns of thinking, to reject assumptions and projections, and instead to look for real evidence on which to base my conclusions and actions. While it sounds simple, operating in this manner is not an easy thing to do, since unchecked assumptions and inherited norms have significantly influenced the way I navigate and see the world. Actively rejecting assumptions, stereotypes, and projections means taking on the job of discerning the reality of situations that may defy easy compartmentalization when critically examined.
Consequences of my move toward intentionality, clarity, and honesty are that I must do more thinking overall, and that the familiar universe that formed my reality yesterday may not exist tomorrow. I accept and in fact embrace these changes because the reward is a heightened sense of purpose and self-respect and an activated mind, all of which enable me to operate at my personal best.
By: Erin Thompson