I've made a habit of asking twice, tripping up the rhythm of social niceties. The cashier or whomever will ask "How are you?", "How's it going?" etc. etc. And sometimes I'll answer with a smidgen of honesty, sometimes I'm noncommittal. But the important part, the fun part, is when I return the question and they give me the automatic answer and I hit back with a "Really?"

When I started I was delighted and amazed at how much honesty asking one more question could bring. The wall comes down; the mask comes off for a moment, they take a breath and become a person again and more often than not they give me a real answer. It's not as if they get into super personal details or deliver a life story but they do give me a true answer and often with supporting details. It makes me think that maybe too many of us are looking for someone who just wants to listen.

For the handful of people I see on a regular basis that I like and care about, shrinking now that I'll be working from home again, they learn quickly that I expect a real answer and will ask until I get one. And I will often respond in kind if they ask me in return. It's the little things, the little pieces that build strong bridges.