Saturday, May 19, 2007

Living Life Genuinely

In September, 2003, I published my first pop-psych book, Living Life Anyway. The book’s description explains the double entendre in the book’s title:
Living Life is what it's all about - not existing through life or struggling through life, but living life. Moreover, you can live your life anyway - anyway meaning "any way you want to live your life," and anyway meaning "in spite of the unwanted and undeserved dirty deals your life may have handed you." For many people, life's most important journey is an inward journey, and better yet, a life of inward travel. Seriously and humorously, the book's 22 chapters address living life: Consciously, Presently, Hopefully, Autonomously, Interdependently, Congruently, Trustingly, Honestly, Fearlessly, Temporally, Passionately, Responsibly, Structurally, Compartmentally, Purposefully, Serenely, Spiritually, Morally, Genuinely, Lovingly, Peacefully, and Happily.

The first paragraph of Chapter 19, Living Life Genuinely, reads as follows:
In spite of the lingering “Image Management” and “If you can’t be good, at least you can look good!” genres of the 1980s, our society continues to highly value and desire genuineness. For example, expressions such as “It’s the real thing!” and “What you see is what you get,” are but two of the numerous genuineness-based phraseologies of the 1990s. If you are genuine, you possess the supposed and portended character, quality, and origin of what and who you really are. There is nothing counterfeit, false, fabricated, misrepresented, feigned, fake, or phony about you. On the contrary, you are sincere, veritably authentic, and aboveboard in every way. I also would add that if you are a genuine person, you also want to be genuine.

This morning I went food shopping, and when I got to the checkout line I was listening to the brief conversations between the customers ahead of me and the young checkout girl behind the register. In each instance, she very politely said, “And how are you today?” And in spite of what appeared to be a plastic, non-genuine tone in her voice and mannerisms, the customers politely said things such as, “Fine,” “Good, thank you,” etc. Then in an equally non-caring tone, she replied, “That’s terrific.” Thoughts regarding the frequent plastic, politically correct, in-genuine “Have a great day” aspects of our current society were flying around in my head. My eye contact with the couple behind me suggested that they were seeing and sensing the same thoughts. When I moved up and started putting my items on the conveyor belt, the words, “How are you today?” came in my direction from the woman identified by her name tag as a “Customer Care Associate.”

As I was swiping my debit card through the machine, I dryly replied, “I’m dying of cancer.” And while continuing to scan my items and not even look up at me, she replied, “That’s terrific.” With a deadpan, Bob Hope look on my face, I turned to the couple behind me – both of them had all to do to not laugh.

As I was putting my groceries into my Jeep, the couple came over and the gentleman said, “You look like you’re in great shape; you were kidding her weren’t you?” I replied, “Yes, thank you for asking. I was just testing her I guess.”

As I rode home I wondered if should have felt bad about testing the checkout woman as I did. Realizing that she never noticed anyway, my sense of guilt was short-lived.

Question: Based on your experience, how pervasive is this non-genuine kind of behavior in our society?



Cole Reising said...

LOL - Ok I know I'm not supposed to be amused by her non-reaction but I am! I couldn't have kept quiet... I'd have HAD to make her notice... LOL


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Cole,
Delighted to hear that you enjoyed the story. And you gave me an idea -- the next time I'm in that store I will tell her had happened and see what she says.

Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

I find the friendly people genuine. I think people have a tendency to function on auto-pilot and aren't really listening when people speak. I know I do this and I am really trying to pay more attention when someone is speaking to me.... I am easily distracted by the thoughts in my head :) or I am multi-tasking while people speak... Sometimes I honestly do not hear half of what someone said to me and instead of asking them to repeat it and appologize I just pretend I was listening and make up an answer that sounds acceptable. I am actively trying to work on this!!!!!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello MHT,
Thank you for sharing your experience...and the important thing is that you're working on it. I tend to see many people who make believe they're listening but simultaneously are thinking about what they're going to say next (instead of really listening).
I also think that the checkout lady in the grocery store was basically responding my rote consistent with how she was trained or told to interact with customers. As some individuals do in their personal lives, she was "gong through the motions." (And if that is true, we could say she was genuinely ingenuine.)
Thanks MHT... keep working on it (for which I applaud you),

DH said...

What a great topic! I usually dread people asking me "How are you?", because...I hate to admit...I will have to ask them the same thing! And, if I don't really want to know--why ask?! I love to listen to my husband when he's asked this question (usually in the checkout line). LOL, he goes into this big,long,dramatic dissertation about how he is doing ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, and if he were doing any better he'd have to hire someone to help him enjoy his life! And then, when the clerk's eyes/eyebrows look his way...he just as enthusiastically asks how they are (with the utmost genuine concern) and really listens to their answer. They are usually not able to be on auto-pilot at that point, as he waits with baited breath for their answer:) Never a dull moment when we are out shopping! DH

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello DH,
I appreciate your complimentary comment and especially your sharing your experience with your genuinely genuine husband. It sounds like he simply assumes that everyone else in the world is as caring about their fellow man (person) as he does... let's just hope that no one ever hurts him (emotionally) and tarnishes his joyful and loving approach to the world and other people.
And while he may at times be challenging to live with, I would suggest that you consider yourself lucky to be with a man like that (and my sense is that you do).
Carpe diem,

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that the pleasantry of "how are you" is a pet peeve of mine. If I ask someone how they are, I am prepared to listen to them because I really want to know.
At work, when someone I don't know (and who obviously wants something from me) calls and asks how I am, I curtly (but politely) reply with, "what can I do for you?"
IMHO, it's not only rude, but a waste of precious time!
I will now go put ice on that nerve...

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Nienke,
I tend to experience the same things – maybe one of the downsides of being a genuine person is that we “like to believe that others are the same way,” and when they’re phony, plastic or deceitful, it stings and arouses our anger.
And regarding the ice… I keep a “cold pack” in the freezer – I have that kind of experience at least once a day!
Have a great day (heh… don’t ya love it!!! Where’s the ice?)

Anonymous said...

"Have a great day" is fine, as long as you mean it!!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Nienke,
Okay, I was saying half in jest. But the other half was genuine.