Two things usually happen when you ask someone "How are you?" at the beginning of a conversation:

  1. Your brain is already thinking about the next part of the conversation the moment you finish your question, without even listening to the person's answer
  2. The person answers a maximum of 1 to 5 words, like "Yeah yeah, all good", and goes straight to the next part of the conversation without even thinking about what they said

I have noticed this phenomenon of shallowness over the past few months as I have been interested in developing my empathy skills.

Different experiments led me to a simple question to ask the other person. Instead of asking a simple "How do you do?", I append 5 transformative words to it:

"How do you do between 1 and 10 today?"

Straight away, the other person's brain switches to manual mode. They puts themselves in the present moment. And, almost as if by magic, the person begins to explain why he or she is a low "5-6" today, or why he or she is on a roll with a strong "8-9".

A recent example: I discovered that a colleague, who looked a bit tired (which could have been blamed on a bad night), was in fact in personal pain due to a sudden close relative's health problem, and also had too much work. What was supposed to be a short moment of synchronization on a project turned into a brainstorming session to solve two of his most critical problems.

Today, he and I no longer interact only through a professional lens. We connect on a more personal level. And this connection has made our subsequent discussions more fluid and effective, as we understand each other's expectations and workings much better.

In researching the subject of empathy, I learned that science corroborates this causal relationship between human connection and the source of meaning and motivation. [1][2]

If someone had told me a few years ago that being empathetic would collectively improve our productivity, I would have laughed!

This change may seem simple, but it has radically altered the depth of my relationship with my colleagues, as well as with my loved ones. And as a side effect, my personal productivity.
Like any soft skill, it's not innate, but it's a muscle waiting to be developed.

Try it for yourself with the next person you meet today, and you'll be surprised at how these 5 little words will reconnect you with your relationships.

And you, how do you do between 1-10 today?


Header photo credit: Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels