I’ve been struck by how often our words fly by each other without any real sincerity to them. Have you noticed how punctuated and meaningless our exchanges have become? We appear to have normalized nonsensical exchanges, bereft of any genuine meaning. Real intention, real inquiry, real caring has slipped into the ether as we verbally transact with each other in a robotic way.
Do you really love me?
What was once a profound and significant sharing, “I love you,” has been shortened into, “Love ya.” Very often the person saying “love ya,” may in fact not really love the person they’re speaking with. It feels perfunctory and you can predict the moment of its utterance; at the conclusion of a conversation or the parting of ways. We have substituted saying “goodbye,” for “love ya.” And in doing so we’ve debased the loftiness of the word love.
By simply adding the word “I” back into the expression you commit to a deeply authentic and emotional sharing. If you really want to make this statement more profound, offer it at an unexpected moment, not when you’re parting company. Spontaneity speaks to sincerity, predictability is rote. On occasion I will receive a text from my son without any prompting in which he writes, “I love you dad.” That of course brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.
Our words matter. The words we choose convey our thoughts and feelings. Aside from non-verbal communication words are the heartbeat of our relationships. When we misuse our words or truncate our sentences to save time, we dishonor ourselves and our relationships. We have defaulted into the shortcut language of texting. When leaving a store or a restaurant I can anticipate hearing, “Have a good one.” Of course, that’s the same amount of words as “Have a good day.” No time save there. But there’s something callous to my ear when my day has been subverted to the word “one.”
How are you?
Many times a day we may walk past an acquaintance and say, “Hi, how are you?” The other person smiles, says, “good and you?” And we likely respond similarly. Are we both always good? That’s a rhetorical question of course. A few years ago, I was taking a walk on my way for a cup of coffee. I encountered a parking attendant with whom I was familiar outside of a neighborhood restaurant I frequented. This gentleman and I had a number of engaging conversations in the past and so I asked the predictable, “How are you doing Jacques?” He smiled and said, “I can’t complain.” I smiled back and continued on my walk.
Moments later I had a thought. His answer might suggest two different things. Either Jacques has nothing to complain about or he literally couldn’t allow himself to complain, emphasis on the word, can’t. I wondered which was the case. In a few minutes, coffee now in hand, I reencountered him. I explained to him that I wasn’t sure if he meant all was well or that he was uncomfortable complaining. It took quite a while to break through his resistance until he finally said, “I don’t share my struggles because no one would be interested.”
Be true to yourself
I explained to Jacques that when I asked how he was, I did care and truly wanted to know. When we greet one another and inquire as to how we’re doing, without either party answering honestly, it becomes an exercise in inauthenticity. We act as uncaring strangers. We cut ourselves off from human interaction. And we suffer for that. We can do much better. Jacque’s belief that no one would care is of course false. I cared. It may be that many wouldn’t care, but why preclude those who might?
To be true to yourself, you need to be authentic. Without going into details, your answer might sound like, “I’ve had better days.” That opens the door to a genuine interaction. You never know what might evolve from that. But at the least, you’re being honest with yourself. It’s really important to be authentic no matter what you expect from another person.
This article was excerpted from Mel’s new book, The Possibility Principle.
Mel Schwartz LCSW MPhil is a psychotherapist, marriage counselor,TEDx speaker and corporate leadership and communications consultant. He is the author of The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love. Mel earned his graduate degree from Columbia University. Mel’s TEDx talk, Breaking Free From Anxiety receives over 50,000 views per month.
The Possibility Podcast has recently launched. Listen in as Mel talks about the possibilities that await us when we learn to rethink our lives.
He has written over 100 articles read by more than 3 million people. One of the first practicing psychotherapists to to integrate the principles of quantum physics into a transformative therapeutic approach.Mel practices in Westport CT, Manhattan and globally by Skype.