1 Question to Improve Conversations

QuestionsAt the drinking fountain in a corporate office of 300 staff members, drive-by “Hello’s” are quite common.

As Cara* walked by, today was no different as I offered up a sincere question (not a statement), “How are YOU doing today?” Her reply as she kept walking was, “Pretty good.”

Turning from the fountain, I asked, “How can I upgrade you?” She had doubled back and inquisitively asked what I meant, where upon I restated, “What can I do that would upgrade you from ‘Pretty Good’ to at least ‘Good?'”

In a more serious, tone she proceeded to share that her limbs have been going numb and it has her concerned, “so if I can fix that she would be good,” she said with a wry smile. I told her I would start by keeping her at the center of my thoughts and prayers beginning immediately. She was sincerely appreciative.

*Note: In order to protect what may have been intended to be confidential, some of the details such as the name were changed to protect the individual.

I never cease to be amazed at how the demonstration of authentic care and concern for others can cause even complete strangers to open up. As a result, I learn something new and different about them than I knew before.

As a student of people and human behavior, my best learning about others often comes in the casual and informal settings of hallways rather than meetings. Meetings tend to have agendas, so I take interest in what’s off the agenda.

Therefore, my question to anyone responding to ‘How are you’ with anything less than “Great!” will often bring the, “What can I do to upgrade you?” question.

As you can imagine, sometimes their responses can be pretty fun or off the wall, which provides an opportunity for me to engage for just a few brief seconds of wit and banter whereby we both leave smiling. Other times it’s been quite revealing leaving me with the thought,‘I’m sure glad I asked.’

Two important things to note:

  1. Whenever I ask the question, I am prepared to actually do something about what they share. Without that, my authenticity is compromised.
  2. I am not advising that everyone start asking this same question. That would miss the point altogether, as authentic care is my point here.

I’d love to hear other ideas of how you demonstrate this with others, or stories of what others have done for you that made an impression.

If you don’t have stories of your own, then perhaps try my question as a starting point. I bet you’ll have your own story to share by day’s end!


Jeff MichaelsJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

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