How sincere is your "how are you?"

Last Sunday, our new pastor, Rev. Sue Lee, D.Min. gave a sermon that really touched me. It was three little words, “How are you?” You can listen here. She told her story of coming to the United States and starting her new life in DuBuque, Iowa after leaving her homeland of Korea. She talks about how the words, “How are you?” made her feel. Everyone answers, “Fine, how are you?” but most people don’t really care how you are.

Why “how are you?” is the wrong question

For the stranger or the new person or the minority who have not yet been assimilated into a new setting, answering “Fine, how are you?” is not the way they feel. Most people have those three little words so ingrained in their greeting that they don’t even think about it and they rarely listen to the answer.

I’ve been the stranger in a new community three times in my life, once when I went away to college in Madison, once right after marriage when we were transferred to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and once when we took a transfer to Naperville, Illinois right after our first baby and while I was pregnant with my second son. None of them went well. All of them were short term, 5 months, 13 months, and 9 months respectively.

For my introverted personality, a move is very hard. Not when I initially make it, then I am excited about new possibilities, but I don’t do well being a stranger. At the same time, I have been blessed in each location with people who understood the challenge of being a stranger and really did want to know how I was.

Taking “how are you?” to the next level

The most memorable moment of someone who took the “how are you?” to the next level was when another woman named Julie from the church we joined in Naperville told me that I should call her to take care of my 13 month old son when I felt it was the time to get to the hospital. She did ask that I not call in the middle of the night but that wasn’t how it worked out. I ended up calling her at about midnight, dropped off our son, Tim, at 2am and delivered our son, Dan at 4:26am. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. I was a stranger. She offered to help.

When you have the opportunity to be sincere

Whether it is at church, at school, at work, or in your neighborhood, reaching out to the new person or stranger with a sincere “how are you?” can change a life. And it isn’t always the stranger. Most of the time, we throw out those three little words, “How are you?” with no thought at all.

How would life change if you meant those words? The reason the sermon hit me so hard wasn’t just because of the times I have been a stranger. It is also all the times when I wanted someone to care. There are times in everyone’s life when they are going through something very tough and they wish there was someone there to really care about the answer to “how are you?” but most of the time they are just words.

I built my business around a collaborative process because I find it to be the best way that I can really help someone reach their goals. As we write the resumes and LinkedIn profiles together, complete intake and interview coaching, the guards go down and my clients often share exactly what is on their hearts. I hope I always care about the answer to “how are you?” and I hope after reading this and perhaps playing the link to the sermon, you do too.

If you want to be part of a collaborative, person-centric marketing process that creates your resume and other career materials using interactive sessions to help you reach your goals, learn more here.

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About Julie Walraven

You quickly see why my unique interactive coaching and strategic resume writing process isn't a cookie-cutter solution. You and I create your personalized job search strategy and define your value and showcase your accomplishments in your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letters, and so much more.