Last week I went to my 20-year high school reunion – which was neither as dreadful nor as exciting as the hype would lead one to believe.
Over the course of a few hours, a group of people (most of whom live in the same city even when not reunion-ing) who once knew each other well assemble to engage in a speed-dating type dance, trading 2-5 minute updates on the last 10-20 years of their lives. Mostly I found it positive to hear how people have grown, the paths they are walking, how they are making their way through the world.
What’s unique about a reunion is that it combines long-lost friendship (trust, openness) with the expectation that you’ll give shorthand update on a few decades of your life. There’s an intimacy that’s absent from cocktail party conversations, which I found breeds honesty and directness if you actually stand up and listen.
Perhaps most interesting was the simple answer to the question, “How are you doing?” asked repeatedly. In the context of a high school reunion, this innocent phrase carries some real weight. Peoples’ short answers to this question revealed joy, excitement, the desire to impress, openness, closedness, happiness, disappointment…the whole gamut, if you listened closely.
Hearing 30 people answer this same question in 60 minutes certainly made me think about how quickly first impressions are made. And then I thought: wait a minute, maybe high school reunions aren’t any different at all in terms of what you can learn from how folks (how you, how I) answer this question.