Want to Know?
Off the Wall, March 17,

Did one ever notice that when walking, someone will come up and state, “How ya doin’?” and not stick around for an answer?

It was all too common back in the 60’s that when we saw someone approaching us who we knew, we would exclaim, “Hey, how ya doin’,” whereby the other person would respond, “Hey, whatta ya say?” Then either nothing more was said, or a conversation, of sorts, would pursue.

But in both cases, the idea of really wanting to know the answer to the question was never in the cards. It was just a form of greeting another. Somehow it replaced the common terms, “Hi,” or “Hello.”

I can just picture it now, coming upon my friend Dave on Monastery Drive whom I haven’t seen for over a year. Both of us are walking when he looks me squarely in the eye and I, staring in the direction of his face, both state with exuberance, “Hello!”

The greeting may be properly used, but somehow there are so many more ways to address my business associate that would be more emphatic than just that word.

That expression may be OK for answering the telephone, but not seeing and meeting Dave. If you knew him like I know him, I can’t just say, “Hello! In my opinion, that downplays the uniqueness of a gentleman who God has blessed many times over with a true genuineness that persons other than his wife may not recognize in anybody else.

I would probably state something like this – “Hey, there is the man of the hour. How wonderful it was for God to create this great possibility of us crossing paths. Tell me, what have you been up to since I saw you last?”

People like that type of questioning, you know…

Can one see the difference between “Hello,” and the series of statements I used? What I’m trying to convey is that I am really happy to see him, let him know I believed that God creates avenues in everything we do in life and that I am sincerely interested in what has transpired in his life.

When one asks a person a similar question as I did in my greeting, does one really want to know the answer or is one’s mind back in the kitchen preparing what one plans to make for dinner?

People like to be asked personal questions. It makes them feel like one really wants to know and that one cares.

Here’s the most important part of the equation. Listen… If you stated a question to someone just as I did to Dave, and one is someplace in public, for instance, concentrate using both ears, all the while, looking into the eyes of the person to whom one is addressing.

If there is ever one phrase that people use often while I am talking to them on the telephone, it’s, “Oh, I’ve got to go. Someone’s calling on the other line.” Or, the person with whom you are conversing asks a question, but interrupts one’s answer with that same phrasing, “Someone’s calling on the other line, got to go,” and then hangs up, how cold.

I get the feeling right away that the person to whom I’m conversing really doesn’t want to know and is only making light conversation to try to make me feel good. Trouble with that is that I can see right through it.

It would be better not to ask personal questions at all, then to fake it and decide half way through that one could better use one’s time doing other things.

I remember when I was at a city function held at Adams Memorial Library. A group of us were standing in a circle when another man joined us. He looked into my eyes and asked me a question. As I was answering him, he looked around the room not paying any attention to anything I was saying. I should have stopped. I don’t think it would have made any difference.

Back in January, I attended Mass at Holy Family Church. During the homily, Deacon Michael Orange made a statement that made perfect sense to me. He stated, “There must have been a reason God created us with two ears and one mouth. He wants us to listen more.” That was definitely powerful.

God intently listens to our requests and responds with what He considers best for each of us. Are you making time to listen?


- Paul J. Volkmann
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