Conscious Greetings

Gwyneth Paltrow made a comment when she spoke of her divorce from Coldplay front-man David Martin.

She called it “conscious un-coupling.”

Nice idea. A little precious.

Paltrow was rightfully derided for her use of this phrase.

I think of a phone-chat I had last week with my friend Louise Mahler, a supremely charismatic leadership coach in Australia. Louise and I are birds of a feather – we both help C-level business leaders to show up with more presence.

I talk a lot about handshakes these days, Louise says to me.

I hear the word handshake, and I think of greetings, of course. All sorts of greetings. Most specifically “conscious greetings.”

When it comes to greetings, conscious is good.

I was born in Germany, a culture that loves a handshake. Louise is married to a German fellow and understands the impact of a handshake, as well.

We abhor timid handshakes. Limp handshakes. Tentative ones. Rushed ones. A handshake, in one swift action, has the power to charge every moment that is about to unfold.

In a handshake I “feel” the other person. A vigorous handshake. A warm handshake. They say I am thrilled to receive your energy. Delighted to send you mine.

I long to connect.

That’s the handshake-message. Consider the handshake a metaphor for all that may transpire in any moment of greeting, actual handshake or not. Why not make every greeting a vigorous one? A warm one? Why not turn an obligatory social ritual into a conscious greeting?

I think of a comment made by the radiant Judith Jameson, the artistic director of the  illustrious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. When invited to share her insights about leadership, Jameson spoke, instead, about the greeting-moment.

One thing I cannot stand is when people say “Hi, how are you?” and they don’t wait to hear how I am. They’re just going through the motions. I say to people: “Keep it human. Keep it alive. Be real. Don’t turn into a robot.”(NY Times, 11/28/2009)

Jameson’s comments are a plea for conscious greetings. Not a literal handshake, but the delicious exchange of energy that occurs in a conscious one.

How differently every conversation will unfold. How unexpectedly our relationships will blossom. And it starts with a simple conscious greeting.

A conscious greeting is like a conscious handshake.

This week, as you stroll down the office corridors, walk into the cafeteria, head for the lavatories, dash into a meeting, you will engage in many, many greetings.

What if more of these fleeting greetings had the feel of a vigorous handshake? A warm handshake?

Explore. And be surprised.