I don’t know about everyone else, but I started feeling like the phrases “unprecedented time” and “we’re all in this together” got overused pretty quickly these last couple months. This may sound cynical, but if you really want to communicate empathy, you need to sound like you are actually making an effort instead of mouthing empty platitudes. (A phrase which itself is overused.)
Granted, it can be difficult to express original sentiments when you are feeling pressured by the times. Fortunately, there are some creative people providing us with some useful resources.
There was a piece on Quartz by Elizabeth Weingarten where she supplies, “20 questions to ask instead of “How are you doing right now?” She notes that even in the best of times, that question comes off as rote recitation of pleasantries and right now we need to be exhibiting greater care for each other. These are good questions for developing closer relationships with everyone – family, friends, co-workers, audience members, funders, etc.
Some of the 20 questions she listed that I really appreciated:
What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?
What habit have you started, or broken, during the quarantine?
What are some things you have realized that you don’t really need?
What’s something that you miss that surprises you? What’s something that you don’t miss that surprises you?
What’s the most generous act you’ve seen recently?
How do you want this experience to change you? How do you think it will?
What do you hope we all learn or take away from this experience?
I guess a good 21st question, (and naturally, there are many more), is which of the 20 questions resonate most with you?
It wasn’t until I started cutting and pasting these into the post that I realized the ones I was selecting were strongly oriented toward self-improvement outcomes.
Weingarten wants to know what sort of conversations result from using these questions. Her email is at the bottom of the article so bookmark it so you can report back.