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:
– cold and wet
– barely functional
– I’m not good I lost my wallet.
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…