How often do you receive a message that starts, “Hope all’s well”?
I get those a lot. Typically, multiple times daily.
How often do you think that the sender really wants to find out if all is well?
They may or may not, but they’re not expecting to.
It’s filler. It’s padding for people who are uncomfortable starting with the reason they’re writing you.
How often do you send emails that start this way?
I caught myself doing it a lot. It’s harmless. No one tends to mind. And it eases into what’s invariably an ask.
But what if you started or ended the message differently, with a slight twist?
What if you asked, “How are you doing?”
When I receive a message like that, I want to answer. And if it’s someone I’m close to, I might even choose to be open when not everything is going well.
It can often feel wonderful just to be asked the question if you haven’t been asked it much lately.
When I write it, I also want the answer. I often get honest answers back.
“Hope all’s well” closes doors.
“How are you doing?” opens them.
“Hope all’s well” gives you a chance to say what you have to say.
“How are you doing?” gives someone else a chance to say what they want to say.
“Hope all’s well” at best maintains relationships with its neutral statement.
“How are you doing?” can deepen relationships.
Word choices matter.
I sometimes still write, “Hope all’s well,” usually out of laziness. I could just as easily replace it with some other neutral opener: “It’s been a bit.” “I wanted to follow up.” “I thought I’d check in.”
Or I could just get right to the point.
But more and more, I intentionally ask, “How are you doing?” And if someone only responds to the other part of my message, I will often ask again to make it clear that I really want to know the answer.
Once in a while, I’m surprised by the richness of the response. It means that sometimes I get responses that dampen my mood: “My mom had a rough fall, and I’ve been home with her.” “The funding round fell through.” “It’s been a month since I’ve even had a decent job interview.”
But it’s real. And I put so much more value in the trust that the other person places in me – the trust that I might be a source of consolation or understanding. Or just that the person trusts me enough to know I really care, even when I can’t do anything about it or say anything beyond a platitude.
And, for long-time readers, it’s why I’m always so thrilled, even in this one-to-many medium, when you take the time to respond, however briefly, to my ever-open question:
What are you making of yourself?
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