The McKenzie Effect

How "Never Better" Changed My Conversational Game


Peter Pickering

5/5/20242 min read

But I like to spice things up. When people ask me, "How are you?", my response is often, "Never better." It's a simple divergence from the script, but the impact is remarkable. I learned this phrase from my former business partner, Alan McKenzie, some 40-odd years ago, and it's held me in good stead ever since.

Alan was no ordinary individual; he was cloaked in an aura of enigma and mystique that made every conversation with him feel like a clandestine rendezvous with wisdom itself. He was the antithesis of societal norms, especially when it came to conversation.

If he had been in India, they wouldn't just label him a guru or an ascetic; they might have erected a shrine in his honour. I can easily picture Alan, cross-legged and introspective, disappearing into his thoughts for decades on end, all while his hair became a tangled masterpiece, as he pondered the complexities and curiosities of the multiverse.

Alan's rare gift was his ability to spark authentic dialogue. He didn't just converse; he connected. There was an irresistible magnetism to his interactions that invited genuine exchange. I often think it's his influence that has made "Never better" such a cornerstone in my own conversational toolkit.

There's an unspoken rule that when someone asks, "How are you?", there's an obligation to return the favour. My reply tends to disrupt that cycle, throwing a curveball into an otherwise predictable interaction. The momentary pause that follows is a thing of beauty. People are caught off guard, jolted out of their autopilot mode. And in that instant, there's a chance for something genuine to happen.

I care about this because I fear we're becoming increasingly disconnected from one another. Our conversations are filled with script-like exchanges that lack depth. Stepping out of this pattern, even if it's just a little, can make all the difference.

Using "Never better" as a filter, I can identify who's open to a deeper conversation and who's just ticking a social box. While not everyone takes the bait, those who do often enrich my day in unexpected and delightful ways.

So the next time you find yourself in the monotonous loop of empty hellos and how-are-yous, why not go off-script? You'd be surprised how a simple curveball can transform a mundane exchange into something much more meaningful.

© Peter Pickering 2024.

The McKenzie Effect: How "Never Better" Changed My Conversational Game

I've spent decades fascinated by the complexities of human interaction. There's something that's always bugged me, though—the obligatory dance of daily pleasantries. You know the one. "How are you?" "Fine, how are YOU?" It's like a pre-programmed script that we all mindlessly follow.