Default Responses are Detrimental to Connection
Colleague A: Hey, I haven’t seen you all week. You must be busy. Everything okay?
Colleague B: Oh yeah, I’m fine! Things are good. (Never mind the real answer which could be any of the following… “No, I’m feeling really overwhelmed because I was in a fender bender yesterday/my child was up all night with a stomach bug/my aging mother is not well).
Does this glossing over of life’s real problems sound familiar? Remind you of anyone you know? It seems for fear of burdening our colleagues or showing our vulnerability in our personal lives, we often default to this easy scripted response.
Instead, perhaps you might use the opportunity to build a better connection with someone in your professional community. Remember, they care enough to ask which is a crucial start to healthy communication practices. If you fail to respond with a real answer, the only person to blame for the missed connection is you. This often furthers the divide by unintentionally creating a false veneer that your colleague will continue tip-toeing around.
We are not advocating being an open book but thoughtfully responding with a concise, human explanation is a pivotal opportunity to clear the air and effectively communicate.
Colleague B’s revised answer: You’re right, I have been a little absent this week… we’re moving my mom into an assisted care facility next month and it’s been a hard process.
Colleague A: Oh, I understand. That’s not easy. If you want to talk more about it, I’m free for lunch tomorrow.
Next time you are in this situation, consider if it’s appropriate to share a little about what’s really going on. We bet you’ll find support in your community and a little weight off your own shoulders.