Think about it: When you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while (whether it’s been a month or a day!) or even when you meet someone new, what do you say? Chances are, you stick with the tried-and-true “Hi, how are you?” (For most of us, it’s sheer reflex.)
Usually, the answer to this old standby is short and sweet. In fact, we generally expect a reply along the lines of “Very well, thank you.” Sometimes, though, a friend or acquaintance can go into a lot more depth about how her day is progressing—no matter how good or bad that might be! And (let’s face it) it’s those people, the ones who detail how tired, busy, or just plain bad-off they are, who can really make you regret asking at all. And what most people fail to realize is that your answer to this very simple question will either draw people in or scare them away.
The lesson here is clear: When you’re on the answering end, try not to respond to “How are you?” in a negative manner. (This is especially important with new acquaintances—first impressions are a big deal.) Responding negatively presents you in a less-than-ideal light and gives people the sense that you’re a real drag. And if you do it often enough, people just might stop asking you how things are going altogether (and start avoiding you instead).
The next time someone inquires about your day, challenge yourself to be real without descending into a pit of negativity. Use it as an opportunity to further that connection, rather than as a chance to dump your own personal problems on someone else. And yes, you can do that without being ultra-sweet, as I’ve noticed some women feel the need to do. Believe me, it’s completely possible to put a positive spin on an answer that’s still honest. Here are a few examples:
Busy, busy! It’s a given that most of us are busier than ever. Our calendars are so full that we barely have time to blink. But that doesn’t mean others want to hear the details of your schedule! In fact, turning into a verbal datebook may come off as a venting session and give the impression that you’re really too busy to talk. Believe me, I know—I’m so busy planning my wedding that I have to put a little effort into making sure I’m not unintentionally sending out busy vibes when I’m telling others about my day. Here are some fun ways to respond to those how-are-yous the next time you’re feeling the urge to complain about how busy you are:
- Humor never hurts! In a joking manner, say, “Hanging on by a sheer thread! How are you?”
- “I’ve been busy, but busy is good for business!”
- “I’ve never been so busy—but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”
- “You know me—always on the move!”
- Relate it to something personal (in my case, that would be my wedding) and say, “This wedding planning is a full-time job, but it’s been a lot fun!”
- “You know, I’m really busy right now. But I feel very lucky to be so busy!”
Yawn. Let me tell you how tired I am. So you just downed your fourth cup of coffee when some smiley, energetic person comes at you with a how’s-it-going? Perhaps it’s your first week back at work after the new baby, or maybe you’re still recovering from daylight savings time. Even though you may feel that you don’t even have the energy to address the question, try to rally with one of these responses:
- “I’m still recovering from the fantastic concert, movie, etc. that I watched last night. Let me tell you about it!”
- “A little sleepy, but thank the Lord for caffeine!”
- “I got to stay up late holding my baby last night, so I’m a little tired, but I’m so blessed I can’t complain.”
Ugh…I really don’t feel like talking. There are times when we just don’t have much to say. Maybe you’re tired, busy, or just not in the mood to have a conversation. Know that it’s perfectly fine to keep your answer short and sweet. (Plus, the person asking how you’re doing may very well be reaching out just to be polite, anyway!) So when you’re feeling antisocial, simply say, “Never better!” or, “I’m fantastic!” Voilà! Question answered.
Ultimately, we’re all asked quite a few questions throughout the day, so don’t stress over greeting others. Remember that when you’re asked how you’re doing, it’s not an opportunity to vent! Instead, keep your casual conversations positive. And don’t forget that a simple smile can dress up any conversation.