“How was your day?” is a question that, like its partner in crime, “How are you?” we ask of others countless times without actually expecting anything more than a perfunctory answer. And usually that’s all we get – “Fine.” “All right.” “Ok, how about you?” Unless something truly momentous – good or bad – happens to make the day stand out, we don’t tend to give much thought to the thousands of little moments that make up its sum.
In the end, though, that’s what our days are made of – those thousands of little moments that we tend to dismiss with a casual word or two. What if we took the time to listen to what really happened in anothers day? To make it clear to them that we actually do care, that we want them to remember those little moments their day was built upon and share them with us?
I don’t mean grilling your tired spouse when they walk through the door, or making someone squirm under a barrage of questions. But finding the right time, some down time, and asking in a gentle and open-ended way: “Did anything interesting happen today?” “Did anything make you laugh?” “What was your favorite part of the day?” And then, most importantly, being prepared to listen if there is news to be shared.
No Really, How Was Your Day?
I do this with my daughter before she falls asleep, asking her what she would do over if she could and then what she liked best about the day. We talk briefly about things we will work on tomorrow and how we might have handled some things differently, then she picks a good memory or two from the day that stood out for her, and falls asleep with those pleasant thoughts in her head.
I started it just to help her get a sense of how our days unfold, but if I forget to ask her, she’ll remind me. “Remember how I yelled and threw my toys and you got mad?” or “Did we go to the sand playground today? Remember when I went down the slide on my tummy?” It’s a way for her to make sense of all that happens in her days, things that can seem overwhelming to someone so young. And truthfully, even when we adults say “Fine” about our days, there is much in them to overwhelm us as well. They don’t have to big terrible things or amazing, incredible things.
In fact, when they aren’t, when they’re just the countless little things, we tend to sweep them under the rug of normal everyday stuff without actually sorting through them, working through them and making sense of them. When we ask another, when we shine the light on all the little things our days are made of, we open up conversation with them and with ourselves. We let them know someone cares and wants to listen, as well as giving them a chance to bring up things that may have been nagging them subconsciously, or to work through things they may not have thought to share until asked. And it can continue, day to day.
When a friend talks about a problem with a boss, and you remember and ask “How did it go with your boss the other day?” you are reinforcing that they have someone who cares, someone to listen when they need it. You are also giving them a chance to acknowledge and let go of the bad things that happened, and to share and celebrate the good.
You can do it with yourself as well, thinking of what you will do differently next time and letting go of all you’ve been holding that’s too heavy. And you can remember the highlights of your day, storing them as happy memories or drifting off to sleep with thoughts of a good day had, and another one to come.