Norton: The right question requires the right response
A nagging and recurring elbow injury had finally forced my hand to seek medical attention. After meeting with an orthopedic surgeon, the diagnosis was more than tennis elbow or bursitis, it was a situation that would require surgery to fix.
With surgery come the pre-operative exams such as blood work, chest X-ray, and EKG. Additionally, medical clearance was needed by my primary care physician. I also needed to have a negative COVID test within five days of surgery. No problem, I can take care of these things easily. As is my nature, my attitude was great, and I was ready and motivated to have the surgery.
Having completed almost all the testing requirements, I still needed to have my COVID test. No worries, just one more box to cross off the list of pre-surgery to-dos. I signed in and waited for my name to be called. As the nurse greeted me, she asked me how I was doing. That’s an easy one I thought, as I answer this question about a dozen times a day. My answer, borrowed from my good friend Jerry Nazzaro, is always, “Great, couldn’t be better if I tried.”
Her response, “Well then, why don’t you try?”
Her answer was so simple, so direct, and yet took me a little by surprise. You see, I have been responding to that question for so many years in the same way and typically people either smile or reply with something such as, “That’s awesome, I wish I felt that good.” But never, “Well then, why don’t you try?”
By responding to the question of how I am doing by saying that I am great and could not be better if I tried, is never meant to be flippant or superficial. It is just something I learned many years ago from my friend Jerry. Jerry is a guy with one of the greatest attitudes I have ever witnessed. Despite anything he faced, no matter how big the challenge, he would always reply in that same way, “Great, couldn’t be better if I tried.”
The nurse didn’t initially realize how she threw me off a bit as she just continued getting everything ready for my test. However, as she turned toward me again, and even though I was wearing a mask, she could see the puzzled look on my face. When I shared with her that no one had ever so simply and sincerely challenged my statement regarding how I was doing, she just shrugged as if it were the most natural thing she should have said. And it was.
The test was over quickly, she was kind, gentle and made it as easy as possible. As I left, I thanked her for making the test so easy, but making my day a little bit harder. Now it was her turn to have that puzzled look on her face. I shared that I thought her question was brilliant and that she now inspired me to want to “try” and be better.
I thought about this as I drove home from the hospital. Is this really the best answer I can give when someone asks me how I am doing? My nurse, Danielle, was exactly right. I could try to be better no matter how poorly or how amazing my day may be going. The list of things I could do to try and be better in any given moment started flooding my mind; call a friend, maybe Jerry; listen to a motivational podcast; pray; call a customer; better yet, call a prospect; Facetime my children and grandchildren; take a walk on the beach with my wife. The list was endless. Not that I didn’t know and understand this concept already on some level, but it was a good and much-appreciated reminder.
How are you doing? Could you be a little better if you tried? I would love to hear your response at email@example.com and when we realize that we can make everything better when we try, it really will be a better than good year.
Michael Norton is the grateful CEO of Tramazing.com, a personal and professional coach, and a consultant, trainer, encourager, and motivator to businesses of all sizes.