I wouldn’t think that how to respond to the question “How are you?” would need to be addressed, but it does. I was surprised to find that my post from yesterday, “The Attention Whore“, was reblogged less than two hours after it published (thanks Lady Iris Jean!). Messages were received throughout the day with comments and compliments, it seems I’m not the only person out there who has noticed this degradation of the Too Much Information sort. Perhaps it is time to revisit Emily Post’s advice about conversational etiquette?
Inappropriate Responses to the question, ‘”How are you?”
“Oh! Things have just been awful today. I woke up late, the dog bolted out of the yard and I burned the toast. THEN, when I went to leave for work, there was a flat on the car. Can you BELIEVE how bad things are going for me today?”
Well, with THAT attitude, yes I CAN believe how badly things are going for you. First of all, suck it up Buttercup! I venture to guess that in the minds of most people, every bad hand you were dealt today was your own fault. You’re one of those people who always forgets to check their alarm clock so you’re late for work at least twice a week. Your dog ALWAYS bolts out of the yard because you’ve never spent any time training them to stay in it and you’ve been complaining about that toaster for months now. The flat tire, well, didn’t I just tell you last week that it looked low and you should check the air?
“Well, you know how I get these aches and pains all the time? I woke up the other day with this terrible swelling in my knee then I got a toothache. I found a rash on my abdomen the other week and it’s been spreading… I have no idea what it’s from. I should really call the doctor, but then I have to drive ALL the way downtown…”
Let’s think about this for a moment… Aches and pains all the time? Yes, every time I meet you it’s some of the same things and some new ones. Have you thought about a diet and exercise plan to lose the extra 100 pounds your hauling around? That might end the swollen knee issue. That toothache? Might be a good idea to get that checked out and well… as for the rash. Ewww. Really? You know, you should really go to the doctor, because I’m not medical professional and telling me all your woes isn’t going to make them go away. As for driving downtown…. you live less than a mile from the doctor’s office. Here’s a thought… you could walk there.
Appropriate responses to the question: “How are you?”
“I’m good/very good/well/very well/wonderful/fabulous/ peachy-keen-Jelly Bean, thank you for asking. How are you?”
“Why, I, too, am fabulous; thank you for asking.”
Do you see how I did that? It was pretty simple. I didn’t need to lay out every bad thing that had happened in the last days or weeks since we’ve last seen each other. I’ve been asked a question, I responded in a pleasant manner and… that’s it. That’s all I had to do. The Asker didn’t need to know how I stubbed my toe this morning and they didn’t tell me why their arm is in a cast. Chances are, they saw me limping as I approached them and I saw their cast. We’ve left openings for the conversation to continue without beating each other over the head with our ailments.
“I noticed you have a cast on your arm. What happened?”
The conversation can now continue with the person and they can tell me how they broke their arm, it was set and will be in a cast for X many weeks, but they are on the mend. That’s it. That’s all that’s needed.
“…but the doctor says I’m going to be back to playing tennis before the summer is out. I see you’re limping today, I hope it isn’t serious.”
I can now respond that it’s not serious at all, I just ended up turning a corner too fast in the house and caught a cabinet with my toe. That’s it. That’s all I have to share.
Our society is now full of people who all want to be famous for something. So many want to be the star of their personal soap opera. Why? Talk about stressful! You don’t make any money being a Drama Queen and Attention Whoring doesn’t exactly win you friends or influence people (other than influencing them to avoid you).
Let’s all take a lesson from Emily Post and become better at having a pleasant conversation with each other!