How are you really doing?

Every well-mannered parent teaches their kids that same old British etiquette. Like the following:

Hello. How are you?

I’m fine, thank you. And you?

I’m well thanks.

There’s nothing wrong with being polite. Plus…I think everyone derserves to be acknowledged. The one thing I do have a problem with is the word “fine”. The greeting is one of those portals of conversation we use as a stepping stone to leap into something we consider more important.

A few days ago I thought I’d try out a new tactic. Everyday I go the gym in the morning. I get greeted by the friendly guys at the reception desk. I thought to myself – What would happen if I chose to give them an honest answer? Is there any point in lying about how I am and just dismissing my emotions with the FINE stamp-of-approval? So I tried it out…

Everytime I rocked up at the gym, the local coffee shop, and any other cashier I decided to be honest with it came around to “How are you?” I gave answers like:
– surviving
– cold and wet
– tired
– barely functional
– I’m not good I lost my wallet.
– alive
– present
– amazing

It’s a fascinating social experiment. You should try it if you get the chance. The reactions I got from my honest replies were mixed. Some people showed sympathy, and they’d say “Shame man”. Others laughed and smiled when I explained I never give an honest answer to ‘fine’ because no one is ever fine. I didn’t get any hostility or resistance, mostly just a sense of “what a relief to meet someone interesting.”

On one occaision when I used my “barely functional” line, I did get a confused look from the receptionist, but then I may have mumbled it a bit, since I was pretty darn tired at the time. This experiment I’ve been doing for around 2 weeks now. Soon I realized that some people don’t want to deal with too much information. The How-Are-You becomes such a conversational reflex, many people don’t actually want to hear you’ve had a crappy day.

Often I skip that part in the conversation during the appointments I have throughout the day. This is how I do it. I greet them, then I immediately compliment at item of clothing they’re wearing, or ask them a question about their reason for setting up an appointment and so on. I skip the How-Are-You and plunge the conversation directly into the important issues. I end up talking about the issues, and then RIGHT at the end I mention, “Oh, I missed your name.”

Another psychological trick you can try out is use the word Amazing everytime you get asked How-Are-You just say amazing. Just the one word. I found it picks up the self-esteem of the questioner and they end up thinking “he’s not such a bad guy.”

So how do you greet people? Is there a better way to go about it? Let me hear your thoughts…




3 thoughts on “How are you really doing?

  1. Michael says:

    I agree, “fine” is an overused, often dishonest and dismissive answer to “How are you?” “Amazing”, however could suffer the same torrid conversational reflex if used in the same context as “Fine”. If the response is born out of the illegitimate womb of dishonesty then “Fine” can be replaced with any word from the OED. The salient point and most valuable extraction from the experiment is to simply mean what you say.

    We live in an instant world, coffee, soup, oats, iCloud, IM and, and, and……. The point is that we have created a society that focuses on how many “things” we can fit into our time, instead of focussing on observing how much time we can put into those things that really matter. Relationships, investing in others lives, encouragement and just generally being nice. The one thing we can all do with more of is niceness. Being sincerely nice is what changes other people’s lives.

    It’s incredibly simple and when “nice” is done from a departure point of sincerity and humility then it becomes simply incredible!

    • Michael you make a valuable point. Once we begin to “[observe] how much time we can put into those things that really matter” then we grow our own souls. Much like the word “fine”, nice is another bug-bear of mine.

      I wholly agreed with you, although I’d change it simply to just being sincere. Caring for those around you is sometimes the most simple and effective gift you can pass on to someone.

      Once again thanks for your valuable input! ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. I very rarely answer “Fine”, and generally stick to mostly honest, yet often vague answers along the lines of “So so”. If it’s someone I don’t actually know (And will have no real impact on my life), I’m generally far more truthful…

    The thing I’ve found the most annoying is when the conversation goes as follows:

    Person: How are you?
    Me: Good thanks – And yourself? (At a clearly audible volume)
    Person: *Silence*

    This procedure generally happens when the person is simply making a generic / instinctual greeting. In my opinion, if you don’t care to listen to my response – Don’t ask me in the first place >_>

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