What’s New and Good?

Today was our second day of focus groups here in Westchester County. At the beginning of each group, the moderator asked his series of introductory questions the same way he’d done on the first day. He had the participants pair off and interview each other, and the goal was for each to find out what the other did for a living and if they lived with others. Then he asked them to talk about what’s new and good in their lives.

The question is a simple one, and one that forces you to truly focus on the “good” aspect. A lot of things could be new, but not everything is good. I don’t think we focus on the latter enough.

A few were newly engaged, some had just received a promotion, others were on the verge of a job change. A couple individuals had just purchased homes, while others were looking forward to an upcoming vacation.

Suddenly there was a lot of “good” being voiced in one room, and it was exciting to hear. You could feel the energy as they spoke.

Group after group, the excitement grew. I thought how easily it would be to replace, “How’s it going?” with, “What’s new and good?” in our day to day conversations. I think until it really caught on, which would likely take quite a while, people would be so caught off-guard by the question that they’d give you a real, legitimate, thoughtful answer. Nothing equivalent to, “Fine, you?” in reply to the usual, “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” questions. Those have become such common greetings that they’re the verbal equivalent of grade-school letters I used to write to pen pals: “Dear Wynne — How are you? I am fine.” And from there, it would lead in to even more mundane chat about the weather, about school, about pets.

Not that the effort back then wasn’t good. It was great. It taught me a lot about communicating via the written word, how I could brighten someone’s day and it gave me hope that the same letter I’d just sent halfway around the world would be reciprocated.

But we’re adults now. Shouldn’t our care and interest exponentially increase with each passing year? All the more reason why incorporating the question of what’s “new and good” could, in fact, be a very good thing — not just to make others identify the good in their world, but for us to learn how to ask genuinely, listen intently and respond accordingly…with care. Not just a courtesy answer, but with one wrapped in heartfelt warmth.

Tonight I am thankful for our focus group moderator who brought warmth to each of the groups with such a simple question; its humanity and kindness immediately brought ease and familiarity to a room full of strangers. And if that can be achieved among people who didn’t know each other before gathering in the same room, just imagine what we could accomplish among our closest of friends with such an inquiry.

So what’s new and good with you?

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