What are the first words out of your mouth when you call somewhere, anywhere? If they’re not some sort of variation on “hi, how are you?”, you are an asshole. You really are. I am so baffled whenever I hear someone call somewhere and not open with that.
I hear so many people call an office and just bark out the name of the person they want to talk to. Or they’ll call a restaurant for takeout and open with “yeah, i’d like to place an order for takeout”. Where’s the “hello”? “How are you”? Especially with the people who will be handling your food!
You might be thinking it’s not such a big deal. That, the people who answer the phone are used to it and don’t mind you barking out names and food orders without even acknowledging the mere fact that they are live human beings at the other end of the line. Well, you’re wrong. So wrong.
Want proof? Fine. Try this for a few days. Try opening with “Hi, how are you?” for every single call you make, no matter who you’re calling. Business, pleasure or personal. Here’s what will happen. I know, because it still happens to me all the time.
You will call an office, say “hi, how are you?” and the receptionist will freeze up, in shock, as if you just spoke a foreign language. Now, this won’t happen every time, but it does happen way too often. Whenever I sense that reaction, I like to talk about it. I say “what’s wrong? Are you not used to people asking you how you are doing? (I swear I do this)”. A lot of the time, they will open up to you and admit that most people don’t bother taking the time, but they do appreciate it when it happens.
I don’t understand, I really don’t. This shouldn’t even be a discussion topic. The only reason it is, is because I am shocked at the number of people, good people, who just don’t acknowledge the people they are talking to.
My buddy, the one I had previously mentioned, the one who put me up to writing this blog and who loves to discuss sales and human psychology, he doesn’t even do it! He does not say “hi, how are you?” when he calls somewhere. I caught him once calling in a food order for our traditional Friday night feast. He simply opened the call with “yeah, I want to place an order for pickup”.
Son of a bitch. This is the guy I spend hours with discussing all the books I’ve been reading, giving him sales tips, cold call tricks and cool new psychology stuff I’ve been learning.
On top of everything, he fucking knows the guy! He’s known him for years, knows his name and everything! Of course, I called him out on it.
I asked him why the hell he spoke to the guy like that, why he didn’t say hello and ask him how he was. You know what he told me? And this here, is the main problem. He said “I say hi and how are you all week long when I call clients and make cold calls. It’s the weekend now and I don’t feel like making the extra effort”.
Holy shit, I did not expect that answer. I really didn’t. I never realized that asking someone how they were doing required “extra effort”, but he is right. It does require extra effort.
To understand why it requires extra effort, we need to understand habits and what they are. Here is a very (very) quick explanation, as I learned it in Stephen Guise’s fantastic book, Mini Habits.
This is definitely a book everyone should read. It has nothing to do with sales or how to stay motivated. Stephen Guise explains why big goal setting and even motivation are ways to set yourself up for failure. I have read many books on habit forming and this one is by far the best one, because the author shows you how easy it can be, in ways that have never been shared before.
I will even go further here and say that Mini Habits will show you a way where it is harder for you not to do what you set out to do, than it is to actually do it. Ok, back to what I learned.
The brain creates habits for a very simple and extremely important reason, to avoid exhaustion. We have more habits than we can imagine. A habit is basically anything you do, without really thinking about it or really concentrate on it.
Examples of habits can be showering, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, eating and even driving! Notice how sometimes, you will arrive at your usual destination and not even recall the whole trip. That’s because you have done it so many times, it has become habit.
If your brain had to think, I mean REALLY think about every little thing you do in your day, it would be too exhausted to be efficient. This is why your brain creates this sort of “habit folder”, to save energy and keep it for tasks that really require its thinking power.
Stephen Guise also teaches us that the 21 day “rule” to forming a habit is complete BS. There is no scientific conclusion backing this up. There have been a couple of studies that show that habits can take as little as 18 days and as much as 166 days to form. Even sometimes less and sometimes more.
Here is the simplest way to understand how habits are formed. Every time you execute a task, a little link, a connection is created in your brain. If you only execute that task once or very rarely, the connection will disappear and require your brain to create a new one next time you do the same thing.
If you keep on repeating the task, as small as it may be, not only will the connection in your brain remain, but it will strengthen and get bigger. Think of it as going from a one lane road to an eight lane highway. I can go on and on about habit forming, but Stephen Guise already wrote the perfect book on the subject. Just read it, you’ll thank me (this writing is actually part of my mini goal for the day……you’ll understand when you read it).
Ok, back to basics, because that’s what this article really is. It doesn’t make sense that I feel I need to write to educate people about saying “hi, how are you?” when initiating a conversation with someone.
By the way, this doesn’t just apply to receptionists on the phone. Do this for EVERY situation, in person or on the phone. Not one exception can apply here. A sales person walks up to you in a retail store? “hi, how are you?” A waiter comes to your table to take your order? “hi, how are you?” You pull up to a drive thru intercom to place your order? “hi, how are you?” Your doctor walks into the examination room for your appointment? “hi, how are you?” You call your internet provider to complain about your invoice or service? “hi, how are you?” You stop a stranger in the street to ask for directions? “hi, how are you?” I’m hoping you get the point by now.
Do this mindfully until it becomes a habit. Until you find yourself saying “hi, how are you?” without even realizing it. Some of you are probably thinking i’m insane to think that something so simple can make such a huge impact in our daily lives. To you skeptics I say, try it. Go ahead. Try it for a month and then come back and tell me how many people were taken by surprise by your “hi, how are you?” And do you know why they are surprised by it? BECAUSE NOT EVERYONE DOES IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! And that, to me, is a big big shame. Sometimes, being a social genius simply means saying “hi, how are you?” (that was the last one, I promise)