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Ask a Second Question

James Robilotta

“How are you?” “Good.”

“How are you?” “Tired.”

“How are you?” “Busy.”

Sound like a familiar conversation? “How are you?” Has become a throwaway question and a space filler in seemingly meaningless interactions. It’s casually tossed out when passing someone in the building and it is asked flippantly in the beginning of meetings. We ask it when we want to say more than hello and pretend like we care. But rarely do we register the answer and sometimes we secretly don’t even want people to answer it with a longer, more honest, response.

The most precious value we have in life is time. We are all a little selfish and get caught up in our own lives – and that’s ok. We just need to start recognizing how often we put on our blinders and what impact doing so has on communication and connections. If you are a leader in your organization or community, I especially need you to own this. One way to get better is by asking the question “How are you?” less superficially.

There’s another easy way for leaders to show they care. In doing it we can build stronger, more compassionate, and trusting organizations. Here it is:

Ask a second question.

That means that after you intentionally ask someone how they are doing and they respond, you then ask a second question about their response. Learning that someone is “good, tired, or busy,” tells you nothing. Those are throwaway answers people give because they do not think we really care (or they don’t think their feelings are worth other’s time…but that’s a longer post for another day). Give that person a little bit more of your time, because we all know the value of time. You know what it feels like when someone is truly present with you. It’s a memorable moment and it catches us off guard in a really cool way.

Build tighter communities. Create work environments that practice compassion. Establish the value of care on your team. Be present with your people. Ask a second question.

Credit // Author: James Robilotta


James Robilotta delivers a thought-provoking message of authenticity and personal responsibility to help students get to know themselves and share their own stories.

Learn more about James and his funny, interactive and moving style at campuspeak.com/robilotta