One of the great shames nowadays is all the different ways we’ve come up with to avoid one magical question that can changes someone’s day, when asked with meaning, intent, and dare I say it, love.

The question I’m referring to is ‘How are you’.

I believe we used to use it with far more empathy and we used to mean it. In our fast paced world and techniques of avoidance – you can’t go too deep with just anyone! – we’ve changed it to phrases like ‘What’s up’… err the sky. ‘Whadda ya know?’ … hmmm “lot’s and not much”. Or worst of all, we actually ask “How are you?” but really don’t care and simply are being polite, the encounter an interruption to a busy day and all that needs doing because my day is all about me!

You see the old fashioned approach was to take time and energy when meeting people to actually ask them ‘how are you’ and then genuinely listen for their reply then connect with them. For me, one of the more beautiful elaborations on this theme actually came from the movie Avatar. There is a tribe called the Na’vi tribe who live on the planet Pandora where the story takes place and their standard greeting when they met was ‘I see you’. It’s far deeper than the words though. It was said with meaning, a gaze filled with intent that emanated from the big emotion filled eyes of the Na’vi. It communicated so much for just three short words, the key component communicated one of understanding. ‘I see you’ really said “I’m stopping and taking time to connect with you, your life, who you are AND I care.”

For me it is surely one of the more magical lines of the movie, said many times, as it also espouses the connectedness and community that existed within this magical tribe who completely understood we truly are all connected and to ‘see’ each other was so important that it had to be recognised in such a powerful ‘standard’ greeting.

I’m not suggesting you go out and start greeting people with “I see you”, you might get arrested! However today, let’s look at ourselves and reinvigorate our “How are you”. The first challenge I have is actually use those words, it asks a commitment from the speaker if nothing else. Then lets learn something that’s very real from the very fictional Na’vi people and when we greet people, let’s communicate all that I believe the Na’vi tried to with their greeting. You never know you might connect with someone, a team member, friend, boss. Maybe even your son, daughter, father, mother, wife or husband who really needed you to stop and care. You might even change someone’s life. That’s what leaders do.

So, how are you?