The Importance of Saying More Than Hello
Everyday we communicate with strangers. Whether it’s the cashier at the grocery store, the homeless person on the curb, or the waitress at the restaurant, we are in constant contact with strangers.
Typically the conversation always begins with, “Hello. How are you today?” of which we naturally respond, “Good. And you?”
But what if the conversation went further than 15 seconds?
I didn’t realize how shallow these greetings were until recently when I would go out with the boyfriend. Now before we continue, you have to understand this guy:
Ahem, meet le boyfriend, Jon. (top left goofy fellow)
Perhaps he is better at conversing with strangers cause:
a) He’s a mental health counselor
b) He’s an extrovert
c) He eerily looks like Jim from The Office and let’s be real: everyone loves Jim.
Every single time we go out he makes it a point to really converse with someone who is serving us. I kid you not, every single time. Even if we were in a rush to go do something, he’d still take the time to show he cares.
He always asks a question to start the conversation. Typically it’s, “Hey, What is something good that has happened to you today??”
or, “Tell me something you are passionate about.”
or, “What are your dreams outside this job?”
And though I’ve heard so many great responses over the last few months, this weekend was a bit different.
We went to our local Trader Joes (and by local I mean 45 minutes away). We filled up the cart and went to the cashier with the lowest line. The cashier looked to be in her early 40s. She had awesome eye-shadow & makeup. Had a smile on her face the whole time as she scanned the items.
“How are you both doing today?”
“Very well! It?s been a great day.”
She continued to scan the items. I knew Jon would begin his questioning any second now.
“What’s been the best part of your week?”
“Ummm. Best part? That’s tough.”
She continued scanning.
“Well, I heard from my brother. It’s been a few months since I’ve heard from him.”
“Oh yeah? Well that’s great! Is everything alright between you two?”
” It all happened over a girl. I still can’t believe it. He’s serving right now for something stupid all because of a girl. He wont get out for another 5 years. I miss him so much.”
Her voice became shaky and her eyes began to well up.
“He’s begun to lose his hearing which is why he doesn’t communicate with us as much. I want to help him so bad, but I can’t while he’s there. But I am grateful I got to hear from him.”
She put the groceries in the cart and wiped her face when she turned away. Jon’s response?
“May I hug you?”
Next thing I knew, there he is hugging a complete stranger in Trader Joes while her line of hungry customers with full carts grew.
You see, we have so many opportunities to really invest in others in the simplest of ways. All it takes is a question.
Sometimes people just want to be heard.
Sometimes they need to get something off their chest.
Sometimes they need a hug and someone to say, “Hey, it’s okay. I care. I’m right here with you.”
We are so glued to our devices while out that we forget to communicate face-to-face with who is surrounding us. We can learn from others where we are standing. We can build new friendships and connections we may have never had to begin with if we didn’t continue the conversation past hello.
So I challenge you today to do what we’ve been doing:
Ask the next stranger you see a random question. Take the conversation further.
p.s. typically asking a question past “hello” will kind of shock people and it may take them a bit to respond, but be patient, encourage, and remember that not every interaction they’ve had that day has gone past the shallow point.