“So, how are you?” can be a difficult question to answer. Do you tell a white lie, or do you launch into a long description of why you’re not “fine”? According to Marla Tomazin, you don’t need to do either.
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,” points out image consultant Marla Tomazin. “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!”
So, is it really such a mistake to give a detailed answer to the ubiquitous, “How ya doin’?” According to Tomazin, your response is at least something you’ll want to think twice about.
“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,” she admits. “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,” Tomazin points out. “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, Tomazin recommends that you challenge yourself to be real without descending into a pit of negativity.
“Use that conversation as an opportunity to further a connection rather than as a chance to dump your own personal problems on someone else. And yes, you can do so 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.”
Read on for some of Tomazin’s appropriately honest answers:
The Truth: Busy, 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!” admits Tomazin. “Right now 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. The upside is that I’ve come up with some fun ways to respond to those how-are-yous when I’m feeling the urge to complain about how busy I am.”
• 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 your busyness to something personal (in Tomazin’s case, her wedding) and say, “This wedding planning is a full-time job, but it’s been a lot of fun!”
• “You know, I’m really busy right now. But I feel very lucky to be so busy!”
The Truth: 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? Or perhaps it’s your first week back at work after the new baby, or maybe you’re still recovering from jetlag after a trip.
“Even though you may feel that you don’t even have the energy to address the question, try to rally when someone asks after you,” Tomazin urges. “Others might not know you’re tired, and a curt response can send the wrong message. Try to summon enough energy for one of the following 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 goodness 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.”
The Truth: Ugh…I really don’t feel like talking. There are times when we just don’t have much to say. (Yes, it happens to everyone—even to the most gregarious extroverts.) Maybe you’re tired, busy, or just not in the mood to have a conversation. Whatever the reason, you’d like to pretend that you didn’t hear, “Hi—how are ya?” in the first place.
“I wouldn’t advise ignoring another person, but know that it’s perfectly fine to keep your answer short and sweet,” Tomazin assures. “Plus, it’s entirely possible that the person asking how you’re doing is reaching out just to be polite, anyway! So when you’re feeling antisocial, simply stick with something short and to the point. Voilà! Question answered.”
• “Never better!”
• “I’m fantastic!”
• “Oh, you know—living the dream.”
• “I’m enjoying the moment.”
• “Soldiering on.”
• “Loving life!”
• “Happy it’s Friday!”
• “Not bad, not bad.”
“Ultimately, we’re all asked quite a few questions throughout the day, so don’t stress too much over greeting others,” Tomazin concludes. “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.”
Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression.
From a successful career in the fashion industry, Marla gained expertise in retail buying, merchandising, sales, and marketing. She began with May Company in Denver after earning a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Denver. Marla moved to New York where she worked with several well-known Seventh Avenue design firms. As she developed her business skills, Marla made a serendipitous discovery—an innate sense of style and facility for working with fabrics and colors to maximum advantage. For more information, please visit www.marlatomazin.com .