The Question You Should Reframe Before Your Next Meeting

By: Lora Haines
Workshop, Webinar, and Coaching Extraordinaire

If your calendar looks anything like mine these days, it’s a sea of calls, virtual meetings and Zoom happy hours. One after another, each meeting starts with the very well-intended question: “How are you?”

How are you responding? With a courtesy “Good, thanks!” – or are you sharing the reality of what’s going on right now? It’s likely that your current mental and emotional state can’t be summarized in a simple, “Good, thanks!”

By now you’ve been saturated with headlines, reports and commentary about how we are in “unprecedented times” (we don’t have to tell you that!)  What we do want you to know is: It’s okay if your answer to “How are you?” is more complicated than just “Good! And you?”  We are all in this together, and regardless of what our experience looks like, all of us are grieving something.

I want to propose a challenge for us all. Don’t worry, it’s a simple one! For the next week, as you connect virtually with your friends and colleagues around the world, instead of asking “How are you?” ask: “How are you today?” or “How are you in this moment?”

Give someone permission and space to be honest. In our corporate coaching sessions, I hear the depth and difference in response just by altering that question. Giving someone the freedom and space to say“Honestly, today I’m struggling. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed,”

or “I’m incredibly lonely even though I live in a house with people, I feel like it’s just me navigating this” or even to share a small delight or win, “Did you know [insert local coffee shop] is open again? Caffeine again, my heart!” gives us the camaraderie we all need right now.

When we are intentional about the questions we ask, we open up the door for bigger connections.

Sheryl Sandberg first introduced this concept in her ground breaking book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy when she talked about navigating life in grief. 

“Then I did what proved so difficult to do with friends and colleagues face-to-face: I described how a casual greeting like ‘How are you?’ hurt because it didn’t acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary had happened. I pointed out that if people instead asked ‘How are you today?’ it showed that they were aware that I was struggling to get through each day. The impact of my post was immediate. Friends, neighbors, and colleagues started talking about the elephant in the room. Emails poured in with messages like ‘I know it must be really hard. I’ve been thinking about you and your kids.’”

We are all in this together, even though how we navigate these new times will look different depending on our circumstances.

So for the people who have self-quarantined solo for weeks, the exhausted parents barely managing to keep up, the families grieving the loss of loved ones, those feeling the strain of financial burdens and everyone in between: We see you, we hear you, and we want to know: How are you doing TODAY?

If you’re curious about more ways you or your colleagues can practice resilience, check out Keep Calm and Carry On: Building Resilience at Work in our Managing in the Now and Next Normal Series.