You wake up in the morning and the first thing you hear from your neighbour is, “Good morning, how was your night?” 🙄
Whether you say “the night was fine” or not, you can’t deny that you sometimes wonder what part of the night they really want to know about. Is it the part where a sleep paralysis demon almost choked you to death, or the bad dream where you got chased down by a bush baby in the forest, or the tryst you had over night?
As with most things, context is key.
When we say things, how, when and where we say them matter a lot. Failure to get this fundamental rule of thumb can cause avoidable communication gridlocks in our everyday conversations.
Of all the questions in this life, “how was your night” is probably the most misunderstood, and it is like that for obvious reasons.
Our night-time is a sacred part of our lives that is only shared with people we trust, care about or feel comfortable with. If you consider the question from this perspective, you will understand why it makes people uncomfortable.
A lot of things happen over the night that we would rather keep to ourselves, so unless the person asking is a close friend, family or partner, it might sound awkward or offensive to be asked that question.
As innocent and harmless as “how was your night” appears, it is capable of triggering memories of the night that might have been safely tucked away to avoid distractions to your day.
Imagine you had a bitter break up over the night, but still managed to pick yourself up and go to work, and your colleague then asks about your night. That would definitely trigger thoughts that can ruin the entire day.
Depending on whom you’re addressing, asking “how was your night” might have sexual connotations or sound like you’re intruding on the other person’s private life. Ideally, asking about someone’s night should be reserved for banter between close friends that share intimate details with one another.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — Bernard Shaw
One of the hardest burdens to bear is being misunderstood by other people. For most, asking about the night is just an ice-breaker intended to douse tension and show that you’re open for a conversation to take place. Unfortunately, it is deeper than that for some people. That is why we need to find more appropriate ways to pass our message across in a manner that will not be misconstrued.
Rather than ask “how was your night”, you can get more creative with other statements like:
Did you sleep well?
Hope you had a restful night.
Trust you are ready for the day.
There are many other things to say, but you get the point.
Communicating effectively means not only taking responsibility for what you say but also for how you are being heard. As much as we have good intentions, it is always good to see things from the other person’s perspective.
Asking about a person’s night is not entirely bad in itself, but how it is received depends on who is being addressed.
What alternatives do you have to ‘How Was Your Night?’