Hackernoon logoHow to Become More Genuinely Liked at Work by@md-ataullah-khan

How to Become More Genuinely Liked at Work

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@md-ataullah-khanMd Ataullah Khan

SEO marketer with an experience of 7+ years.

And in life!

“smiling woman sitting front of man near window” by rawpixel on Unsplash

It was late. It was cold. I grabbed a bundle of the yellowest bananas I could find, I scurried over to the frozen foods section to get a chicken and vegetables Lean Cuisine, I took a yellow Gatorade from the refrigerator, and in my sandals, soccer pants, and puffy North Face jacket, I waddled over to the check-out counter.

I approached Wanda, a round, charming woman, silky light brown hair done up like a modern-day Marilyn Monroe. It was clear she was nearing the end of her shift as she stood slouched, hand on the register, eyes half-open. I put my items on the conveyor belt, and I looked at Wanda.

“How are you doing today?”

No answer.

“Wanda!” I said a little louder.

“How are you doing today?”

Wanda looked at me like I had 5 heads.

“Oh, are you talking to me?”

“I don’t see any other Wanda’s around.” I said as I swiveled my head around a virtually empty grocery store.

“I’m sorry, I just figured you were talking on the phone or something. People usually have their headphones in when they come by here nowadays, so I usually just assume.”

I wasn’t even wearing headphones.

This is the problem we are facing as a society. We have become so consumed by our technological privileges, that other people would prefer to assume we are talking to our devices rather than them. But, through the power of face-to-face conversation and the desire to break free from the norm of everyday ignorance when it comes to interpersonal relations, there is one simple 5-word phrase that can truly change the direction of somebody else’s day, and really, somebody else’s life.

How are you doing today?

I looked back at Wanda. Her eyes had softened as if she had felt embarrassed for an assumption that is running rampant around the country. I told her it was okay, that it’s become comical how quick we are to think that people are speaking into tiny little buds in their ears rather than to the person standing right in front of them. Then, I asked her one more time.

“How are you doing today?”

Her eyes lit up. We spoke about how she stays warm when her register is so close to the door. We spoke about how she was upset she had to leave her children and come to work during these odd hours. We spoke about soccer. She had noticed the soccer ball in the logo on my pants, and she told me about how she used to play as a child. She gazed far into the distance. She was with me physically, but her mind was back on the field, kicking and passing the ball, running around with her friends.

It was almost 11pm now, the store was about to close, and Wanda could finally head home. Our conversation was wrapping up, and as I gripped the handle of the grocery bag and blurted out a mindless thank you, she stopped me.

“No, thank you.”
“Thank me for what?”
“For asking me that question:
How are you doing today.”

I walked out with a smile and a friend.

The Daily Implications

We have become victims of the regularities of everyday conversation. We are stuck in our mundane, monotonous routines. We think that we are connecting by whipping out our phones and texting somebody miles away, but what that really is, is an indication that we would much rather be over there with them than where we currently are in the present moment.

But, this does not seem like a societal issue because people have become so used to it. Walk into an elevator and everybody has their noses to their screens. Hop in an Uber and the only exchange of words is “hello” as you enter and “thank you” as you exit. This has to change.

In order for us to grow as people, for us to grow as a larger collective, there has to be a spotlight on human interaction, and more importantly, interaction that is outside of our comfort zones. We have to make a conscious effort to change the narrative of somebody’s daily life. We have to make somebody who is robotically going through the motions of their daily tasks aware that they are in fact not robots. The simplest way to do this? Make a concerted effort to ask this little question to those we love or those we just met:

How are you doing today?

The Crossing Guard

*Whistle blow

*Hand wave

*Hand stop

Repeat

This is the life of a crossing guard.

Each day I am on the search for people who are at risk of falling into the trap of getting stuck in the repetitiveness of their jobs. Door people, cab drivers, restaurant workers: so many people are doing the same things over and over again day in and day out. How can we change that? What can we introduce into their lives that makes a minor shift in their mentality? What one thing can we do that when their day wraps up, they look back and remember the moment in which we intervened?

We can ask a 5-word question.

I was walking toward a busy New York City intersection. I had my headphones in, listening to a podcast as I walked to a meeting. Then I noticed the crossing guard.

*Whistle blow

*Hand wave

*Hand stop

Repeat

I had found an opportunity to change the narrative. I had a choice. Either keep my headphones in and go about normally scheduled programming, or take my headphones out and do something memorable, something remarkable for somebody else. I chose the latter.

As I placed my headphones in my pocket and stood at the crosswalk, I eagerly awaited the second in which that ominous red hand would turn into an inviting luminous person. Once it did, I made my move. Just as thousands of others had done that day, I began walking across the street. When I got to the middle however, I stopped. 30 seconds left.

I made eye contact with the crossing guard: a tall, slender woman wearing white gloves. Like Wanda, she too looked at me like I had 5 heads.

“How are you doing today?”

The walking man turned into a blinking red hand. 25 seconds.

“Excuse me?” she replied.
“How are you doing today?” I repeated.
“I’ll be doing much better if you don’t get hit by a car!”

I smiled.

“You have 15 seconds to tell me about your day, and then I’ll cross.”

She smiled. 10 seconds.

“I actually caught up with an old friend for breakfast. Thank you for asking.”

I sprinted across the rest of the street. Then I took a look back at her.

*Whistle blow

*Hand wave

*Hand stop

Repeat

Except now, she was doing it with a smile.

The Importance of “Today”

Sheryl Sandberg’s husband passed away suddenly in 2015. After months of rehabilitation, therapy, and an adjustment to an unimaginable devastation for both her and her family, she was able to speak about how she had been coping with her husband’s passing. She spoke to what she had been doing during the grieving process, and she also mentioned how others have been supportive during these times.

When I first sat down to write this, it was originally a 4-word phrase that could change humanity: “How are you doing?” But then, I remembered Sheryl’s words.

She noted that as somebody trying to support another person undergoing emotional turbulence, the most important question to ask is,

“How are you doing today?”

Adding today in at the end of the question weakens the overwhelming nature of this otherwise loaded idea. How am I doing in life? How am I doing these past few weeks? Months? Years?

For Sheryl, every single day was different. Every hour, every minute was different for her as she battled the complexity of emotions she was experiencing. But to hear somebody ask her how she was doing today, rather than how she was doing in general, it allowed her to be more present. It allowed her to reflect one day at a time, rather than be forced to consider this grandiose notion of how she had been doing overall since her husband passed away.

Narrowing the conversation to just how this other person is feeling on this one particular day negates the general, often-used 4-word phrase I initially wanted to write about. Adding today prompts a specific response. It gives the other person an opportunity to actually share an experience rather than respond with the normal “good” we all receive when just asking “how are you doing” for the sake of asking. “How are you doing today” allows you to take it a step further and continue the conversation.

Ease of Use

What is so beautiful about this request to change the way other people live their lives is that there are no barriers to entry. All it takes is an appetite for conversation and a willingness to do something different than everybody else. It takes 5 words to change somebody’s day, and maybe even somebody’s life for the better.

Every time I see Wanda, or every time I walk down that crowded intersection, I am greeted with a chuckle and a smile. Sure, I may be the crazy guy who was willing to stand in front of oncoming traffic until a stranger told me how her day was going, but that is fine by me. I have created a story, I have created a shift, I have created a reminder that no matter what this person is doing, at the end of the day this person is a human and more importantly, this person is loved.

So, when you find yourself going through the motions, when you see others doing the same, and when you feel like it is time to make a difference no matter how big or how small, ask that 5-word question and then listen to the answer.

How are you doing today?

Let’s Change the Narrative

Become a part of the Getting COMFY community, which pushes you and proves to you we can all be getting comfier in our own skin, by joining here.

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