These are the only three little words you need

There are three little words that have completely changed the way that I interact with people in my life. A good friend and mentor of mine taught me those three little words years ago and I am forever grateful as a result. They have opened whole worlds to me that would never have been opened had I not used them.

No, "I love you" are not the three words, although those aren't bad words. I use those three sparingly and only when I really mean them.

The three words I'm talking about are: "How are you?" They may sound quite simple but there is great power in them. Let me explain.

When we are younger and starting out as young adults, let's face it...it's all about ourselves: what we are doing, where we are going and where we have been. It's exciting to be a young adult! It's fun to go on and on about ourselves until the fake smile of the listener finally crumbles under the stress of trying to seem interested for long periods of time while you talk about your life. It's not their fault; they're trying to stay focused on the vast amounts of info that is being hurled their way. But, let's face it, nobody really wants to get a full dissertation of what's happening in someone else's life for more than a couple of minutes and still call it a conversation.

The quickest way to bring the listener into the "conversation" and even stay interested in what you are saying is to ask the simple question..."How are you?" It's amazing the doors that this can open. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and what they are doing and if you don't open the conversation to include others, they will get bored very quickly. It's incredible how many adults, even some older ones, don't understand the concept of how a conversation is supposed to work. I like to think of it as a tennis match where the ball is the conversation and each player has the opportunity to serve and to respond to what's being said. This is way more interesting for all involved and actually, you might learn more with this technique than you would if you dominated the whole conversation.

Asking people how they are shows that you are interested in them. It shows that you care about them and not just what's going on in your world. It demonstrates maturity and connects you with people in a way that could not happen otherwise. Isn't that what we all want...someone to listen to us and really be interested? The best way to have that in our lives is to offer it to others first. It's the old..."you get back what you put out" thing.

There's nothing worse than fake listeners except for people that think the world evolves around them and everyone should hear about it. We all know people like this, don't we? Maybe we've been a little like that ourselves, sometimes. It's no great sin but life is more interesting when we include the rest of the world.

And by the way, "How are you?" Let me know at editor@outvoices.us.

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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