According to conventional wisdom, it is a “no-no” to send emails with “Just Checking In!” as the subject line.
Entrepreneurs are told that every email should include a call to action (CTA), so “Just Checking In” is a wasted opportunity to build business.
“Just Checking In” is also often used passive-aggressively in Businessland, a sorry-not-sorry “I actually need something and I am going to keep emailing you until I get it, but I don’t want to ask directly.”
And many an employee has rolled their eyes when they see they have a “Manager Check In” on their calendar, as it is often more about being checked up on for the sake of productivity—Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing? vs. How are you doing?
Ah, Toxic Capitalism. Once again, you’re showing your worthlessness. The system that thrives on dehumanization is in its demise. (Believe it!) To help it along, it’s time to reclaim* “Just Checking In.”
Even for those of you who do not work in a traditional business setting, are retired, or have other pursuits that fill your day, we could all benefit from more checking in.
Checking in on someone lets them know we are thinking of them, and in these often lonely, isolating, exhausting times, that feels inherently valuable. People and things slip through the cracks all the time, and a genuine attempt to make sure people are ok (and when appropriate follow up on previous conversations) can and should be disentangled from the toxicity.
Checking in while engaging ensures that people feel seen and heard, also a part of shifting away from centering profits and towards centering people.
If done with honest intentions (I know, that’s a big “if,” but I feel confident that Slice of Sunshine readers regularly act with honest intentions!), just checking in can be a part of cultivating a paradigm of care.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
I am a huge fan of iMessage Voice Messages; not as formal as a phone call, but more intimate than a text.
Sometimes I send a random selfie with just the word “Hi!”
Occasionally I’ll email or text a random news story, meme or internet flotsam as below.
And, of course, there are more formal check in tools as well.
During trainings, meetings, or retreats, I often use “Thumbs up, sideways or down” to affirm understanding or gauge consensus. This allows for a quick assessment, easily translates to an online setting and can help groups to press for resolution (a topic for another day). Thumbs sideways is equally informative, and often means there’s a need to slow down or that more work is needed to build a pool of shared understanding (to borrow language from Crucial Conversations).
In the Sex Ed/Sex Positivity world, people regularly employ the “Traffic Light” aka “Red/Yellow/Green” approach to gauging consent and interest. Red is a hard stop. Yellow also means stop, but more in a pause and discuss kind of way, and Green means all systems go. This has the potential for application in many settings!
To avoid the one-on-one check-in as a check-on in disguise, consider opening with a scaling question as a relatively low stakes way to hear how people are doing. “On a scale of 1-10, how is your stress level? Level of optimism? Level of energy?” (Pick one, not all.)
As for the passive-aggressive “Just Checking In!,” regular readers know that I always advocate for direct communication. If what you are really saying is “I am following up on,” “Curious about the status of,” or “Waiting for the outcome regarding,” perhaps you should ask for what you want and/or say what you mean. (“Try it!” in this past newsletter talks about direct communication.)
Sometimes just, “You OK?” will suffice.
Some may argue that asking if someone is OK without planning ahead if the answer is, “No, I’m not OK” is a potential quagmire. Again, back to honest intentions: if what I seek to create is a paradigm of care, I need to open the door.
So this is a simple call to action (no wasted opportunity here!): as we collectively shift to a paradigm of care, join me in reclaiming “Just Checking In.”
*I also believe it is time to reclaim the “Tramp Stamp.” That’s a tirade for another day, though I am glad to see I am not alone in that crusade.
Check in…with yourself
As important as it is to check in with others, it is even more important to check in with yourself. When was the last time you asked yourself, “How are you, really?” and gave your inner voice a chance to respond?Here are some of the questions that I use for my check-ins with myself (I did not invent any of them).
- How have you been taking care of yourself?
- What feels like your biggest challenge right now? Your greatest strength?
- What is one thing you want to start doing? Stop doing? Keep doing?
- If you repeated what you did today 365 more times, will you be where you want to be next year?
- What three words would best describe how you are feeling? (I also love to use these cards.)
(other) Smart People
Receive the “Slice of Sunshine” in your inbox by subscribing to the Department of Practical Sunshine newsletter.