- I’ve worked in a record store (we actually had a very small section of LP “records”).
- I’ve been a server and a bartender (even made up my own drink…The Tidal Wave. Impressed?).
- I’ve worked in an advertising agency (on both the account and creative sides).
- I’ve been connected to the church (i’m the comic relief).
All my experience has had some component of working with people. Serving them. Collaborating with them. Helping them make choices.
While working at the restaurant we tried to get folks to feel like they were hanging out with some neighborhood friends. It started with the way we approached and welcomed a guest.
“Hi! How are we doing today?”
“We’re good (or fine or hungry or in a hurry or a dozen other generic expressions).”
“Great! I’m Shawn and I’ll be taking care of you. Can I start you with an overpriced alcoholic beverage that will increase my check average thereby resulting in a bigger tip?” (I didn’t actually say that last part, but that’s what we meant by whatever we “suggestively offered”.)
Now sometimes I’d ask “how are you doing?” and I’d get more than a “good” or fine”. Sometimes I’d get the truth. I didn’t really want the truth. The truth takes time and the longer I spent talking to one table the less attention I paid to my other guests and the less number of times my table turned.
RESTAURANT MATH: [Neglecting guests+slow table turn=less cash in the pocket]
I was just trying to be polite, to get a read on the mood, when I asked “how are you?” I didn’t really want to hear about the kids or the car or the life. At least not most of the time.
Of course we ask this question, or a variation of it, as a standard way of greeting most folks. You don’t have to work in a restaurant to use these throw away expressions.
“How are you?”
We want to hear, “Ok” or “Great” or some other pleasantly vague expression.
Occasionally, someone breaks the rules and gives a real answer. Every once in a while, someone shares what’s really going on. From time to time, the mask is let down and we get a glimpse into a reality we are often not prepared for.
I have approached someone expecting a pat response only to be surprised by some hurt or pain or struggle. Likely you have as well.
We have a choice in such circumstances:
- Ignore or blow-off the response
I’m praying more often than not, we’ll choose door number two and slow down enough to be present with the person we are with. I’m also praying more often than not, we’ll let folks into our worlds and when they ask, “How you doin’?” we answer honestly. Surprise may be the reaction in both cases – that we want to hear and that we’re willing to share – but this is what relationships are about. Let us take time for each other. Let us become vulnerable with each other. Let us prepare for the one who needs to say more than “I’m fine”, because sometimes we aren’t.
Life is better together,