On Monday I went to the dentist for a maintenance cleaning. The delightful young woman brushing up my teeth (see what I did there? haha) greeted me in a friendly fashion. She hadn’t seen me in six months so she said, “How has your year been going?”
I responded honestly, stating that it’s been kind of a rough year. She responded with a hearty:
I thought of pointing out what she had just done, perhaps suggesting she not ask the question at all if she doesn’t care enough to focus on an answer. But I didn’t want to make her feel bad. I know people tend to answer with a general positive response so that probably won’t happen to her again anyway. And she was being friendly, theoretically trying to make me feel as welcome and comfortable as one can be in the dentist chair.
It got me thinking about my own listening habits.
It’s becoming more of a habit to put my phone away and even take off my watch so I get no notifications when spending leisure time with someone. That’s good (and still getting better).
What I’m thinking about is a bit beyond that, though. Last week I was listening to a podcast where a man was talking about how important it was to ask his wife about her day. Especially if it was a bad day. What he realized after some time was that he often tried to fix the problems that happened in her day.
Sometimes things can’t be fixed. Sometimes we just need someone to listen.
In the podcast, he mentioned that now when she wants to talk, he asks her upfront if she wants solutions or just someone to listen. Frequently, she just want someone to listen.
I think that’s just brilliant.
Not easy for a Happiness Engineer to do. It’s wired in us to come up with solutions to problems, but it does make sense.
So that’s my next step in the game of life. I’m working more on not only listening, but listening appropriately. And I hope that if someone tells me they had a bad year, I will be alert and responsive enough to not imply I’m happy about it 🙂