Good news, everyone. After my last column, I actually did write to Subway to complain about their stupid commercials with those idiots adults who speak with kids’ voices, commercials that have been haunting my dreams. Within one day, I got a response from a Customer Service representative:

“Hi Huy, thank you for contacting Subway® and thank you very much for your feedback regarding our advertising. Subway® has always valued our customers’ opinions and suggestions and we appreciate you taking the time to submit yours. Your concerns have been forwarded to our Marketing & PR Departments for consideration when planning future advertisements. Nalini Wilson”

Aw, Subway is listening to my opinions. And maybe, just maybe, the world will see an end to these atrocious commercials. One person can make a difference. My family is wrong! I can make a difference in the world!! I wrote back to them:

“Thanks, Nalini. It’s just such a weird image of these adults with kids’ voices, and what makes it worse is that poor Todd is being bullied by Samantha and Sally. Those women/girls should get their own Five-Dollar-Footlongs instead of stealing Todd’s sandwich.”

I have yet to hear back from them. It’s been two weeks now. WTF? Upon closer review, their email says nothing! It didn’t commit Subway to doing anything. It was just a bunch of words meant to appease and obfuscate while simultaneously allowing the customer service rep to feel like she has successfully addressed the issue without exerting much effort.

The whole incident has made me wonder how much of our everyday communications are like Subway customer rep emails. How often do we ask each other “How are you doing” and actually want to hear an honest answer? Never. In fact, while the person is saying “I’m fine,” I tend to start walking away.

We have become a society of sound bites and timeline updates. Our rare written communications are in the form of text messages; even holiday and birthday cards contain barely anything personal. Our thank-you cards, if we ever write them, are bland and generic:     “Anna, thank you for having us over on Friday. It was great to see you and Jim. Happy New Year.”

We have become paradoxically more narcissistic yet less personal. For 2013, I am challenging all of us to “Make it Personal.” I don’t mean we should bare our souls to people or reveal our deepest secrets all the time. Or be whiny and self-absorbed. Making it personal is just about taking that extra step to connect to someone as a unique fellow human being. One way is to bring up memories: “Hey John, happy birthday. The porcupine on this card reminds me of the time we dressed up as Goku from Dragon Ball Z and I accidentally poked one of my eyes on your spiked-up hair. Remember that? You still owe me payment for the emergency room.”

Another way is to show appreciation for something very specific: “Anna, thank you for having us for dinner on Friday. Honestly, that was the best spaghetti I’ve ever had. I’m going to try your method of making garlic bread by toasting the bread and rubbing raw garlic on it. Thanks for making everything gluten-free also. I know gluten-free people are very annoying, so thanks for putting up with us.”

Life is too short of us to be superficial in our everyday communication. Next time you ask someone how they are doing, try to convey the message that you actually want to know. Take time to actually listen and connect. Because if we continue to be superficial with one another, then Subway and Samantha and Sally have already won.

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