Tiny Language, Big Impact

What’s up?

You’ve probably heard that a thousand times or more. It’s a pretty standard greeting, and it has a sort of formulaic answer: “Nothing much, how about you?”

You probably give that answer (or something very close to it) as reflexively as you’d say “who’s there” when someone says “knock knock.” Let me offer you a powerful tool: change up the reflexive language. Turn it into something meaningful, and watch your world change.

Early in my career, I had a manager who, when asked “what’s up,” would enthusiastically answer: “Everything!” It was a superpower. Immediately, the whole tone of the conversation would shift. He’d have their attention, their excitement. They’d break out of dull, automatic conversational ruts and ask him what he meant – and they’d genuinely care about the answer. He’d be able then to talk about anything he wanted: new projects, exciting ideas, whatever was on his mind at that moment.

That simple change turned a poorly-used corner of human interaction and transformed it into a real connection.

Just today, as my co-workers and I were parting ways from a large team meeting, one of them said “Create a great weekend, everyone!” If she had said, “have a great weekend,” that would have been perfectly fine, perfectly nice – and everyone would have forgotten about it instantly, as you always do with pleasant but standard conversation cues. But by changing that one word, she turned it into a meaningful statement. It carries the same pleasant kindness, but also shares a value, highlights a philosophy. It gives meaningful advice and illustrates something about her, as well. In short, it’s a thousand times more impactful, using the same number of words, in the same conversational corner.

A hundred times a day you have little exchanges like these; pleasant but meaningless. There’s nothing wrong with them, of course. But if you want to try a little something new, this is an easy change – with a big impact.

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