“Good morning” just doesn’t seem to be enough these days. In addition to “Good morning,” we regularly hear “How ya doing?” or “How’s your day going?” or some other appendix that makes me feel dumbstruck and wonder “How do I answer that?”
You see, I was never a morning person. Even now, I wake usually between 4-5am, but I don’t really feel awake enough to talk to anyone (wife included) ‘til after breakfast, which is usually about 7:30 or so.
Like most teenagers and college students, my preference was to stay up late or half the night and sleep most of the morning.
When I began my working career in NYC, I stayed up to watch the great Steve Allen show from 10:30 to midnight and then struggled each morning to get to the office by 9am.
The only break in this pattern was when I worked for the Electric League in Phoenix. At least once or twice a week we had breakfast meetings and I had to pick up my boss, Dick Reucker, at 6:30am. Dick was definitely a morning person and he chatted to me all the way to the meeting.
I was reminded of this morning ritual reading a recent blog from Glenn Geffcken. He talked about the morning greeting dilemma. Either not knowing how you feel early in the morning or not sure if anyone really cares. That’s me!
Here’s what Glenn had to say:
“When we greet people in an elevator, down the hall or across the street and we ask “How are you?” there is an expectation that they will answer “good” or “well,” and in return they will ask how we’re doing. But, do we truly care how they are doing? Do they truly case how we feel when they ask us how we’re doing? Blurting out the typical responses would seem to suggest that we don’t care too much; that we’re just exercising an expected social behavior or cordiality.
If upon emerging from my home on a beautiful sunny morning my neighbor says “Good morning” and asks how I’m doing and I say, “I’m kind of pissed off this morning but, yes, it’s a beautiful morning,” I think my neighbor would not likely know how to respond to that.
Language becomes like a habit in that we are expected to ask people how they are doing and that they will ask us how we’re doing, and in doing so we fall into a habit of not being honest with our emotions. We say we’re good even when we’re not, and we ask them how they’re doing when we don’t really want to know the truth of what they’re going through. Sharing real emotions with others requires us to be more fully present and in the moment. It also requires us to muster our compassion for people we may not know very well. And, it requires us to set ourselves aside for the moment and empathize.
In my Navajo teachings, I have learned just a few things about their language. I say just a few things, as their language is very complex. They speak in metaphors and stories. It takes many more Navajo words to say things than in English. They can talk for hours to convey a few simple meanings; but they don’t go around asking people off the bat how they are. Their greeting is a simple “Yateh,” or hello. They don’t have a word for goodbye as they don’t believe in goodbyes. They simply say “Hagoneh,” which essentially means “See you later.”
What if instead of saying, “Hello, good morning, how are you?” we said, “Hello, good morning, it’s good to see you” instead of asking for a polite and maybe not so honest reply.
Sounds like a good idea to me, but maybe morning people wouldn’t agree!
Glenn blogs and hosts seminars on The Art of Balance. He can be reached at email@example.com.