How do you respond when someone asks: How are you? Or, how’s your day?
Are you a victim and let people know it? Do you describe how lousy you feel or how crappy your situation is? Or, do you take the opportunity to communicate happiness and share positive energy? One type of response will inspire people to want to get away from you as fast as they can; the other type of response will inspire people to find (and spread) joy. What message are you conveying? With just a simple answer to a simple question, you have the power to affect everyone you meet. “We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” (Ronald Reagan, 1911 – 2004.)
The other day I was standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s, patiently waiting my turn. I like shopping at Trader Joe’s – I like its business model and the general positive attitude of the employees. But, this time it was different. As the checker began scanning my groceries, I asked him how he was doing and about his day? He responded that he would be great – just as soon as he got out from behind his work station. He said that people always complain to him about how hard their life is; he tells them they are the lucky ones because they are on that side of the counter.
I was shocked, not so shocked that I didn’t remind him he was lucky, and should feel fortunate to have a good job. Nope he said; you're the lucky one for being on that side of the check-out stand. My gut told me to get away from this guy as fast as possible; he was a negative drain and would try to zap me of all my energy. Trader Joe’s typically has very upbeat people on staff; but here was one guy poisoning the experience for me and, I’m sure, everyone before me and after me.
I shared this experience with my friend (also a client for 20 years), Jim Ross of Horizon. He smiled and asked, “Jim, do you want to know what I learned from a very wise man once?” I had no idea where he was going with this, but I admire his leadership and positive outlook on life, so I asked him to go on. “When someone asks me how I am doing,” he said, “I respond with just one word: unbelievable.” Indeed, just a few minutes earlier he had said that very thing to the hostess who had shown us to our table. That one-word response caused her to smile. That short, but powerful one-word exchange changed her perspective and attitude and suddenly we became a couple of VIPs. All because of what Jim had said. The amazing power about the word “unbelievable” is that people don’t know if you’re having a bad day or a good day. It is so unusual of a reply most people just assume it is positive.
So, I decided to test this theory. WOW! People treated me differently. Most people stopped what they were doing, looked up, and smiled. One simple little word made a gigantic difference in how people treated me, which begs the question: What if we all said our day was unbelievable? If you know me, you know that I can’t (and wouldn’t) leave it at that. I am now challenged to look for and find the unhappiest people at the checkout stand (or anywhere, for that matter) and wait for them to ask me how I am. My response, with the volume turned up a little: UNBELEIVEABLE, how about you? I almost always get the positive response I’m looking for. Go figure, you and I can’t change everyone, but we can make a difference.