What a loaded and complicated question. Even though I hear it on a daily basis, and know it’s coming, it always catches me off guard.
It can be incredibly difficult to tell if the person posing the question really wants an honest answer. More often than not, they’re using it as a simple greeting. Like when you pass someone in the hall and, without skipping a stride, have this simple exchange:
“Hey, how are you doing?”
And that’s it, a brief, cordial exchange in passing. Did they really want to know how you were doing? Did you really want to know how they were doing? In both cases, probably not. Yet we still ask the question.
Using the same example, imagine if instead of passing in the hall, you both come to a stop. All of a sudden things get a little more complicated. Depending on your relationship and shared comfort level with each other, maybe they really want to know how you’re doing. Or, maybe they just think they want to know how you’re doing. How do you answer? Do you share a little or a lot? Just the good or just the bad or some combination of the two?
This may seem silly if you’re a skilled conversationalist but, for the rest of us, consider you have but a split second to decide what and how much to share. If you’ve got something on your mind, that split second may not be enough time which leads you to pause before responding. That brief pause typically leads people to assume that something is wrong…either you’re not doing good or you’re hiding something. And you know what? They’re right. AWK-ward.
To avoid those awkward “how are you doing” moments…
- Be prepared for the question. You know it’s coming so get your response queued up.
- Know your audience. What you share with your boss typically won’t be the same as what you share with your best friend.
- Don’t share anything you don’t want to share. Answering with a simple, “I’m fine, thanks” is more than acceptable.
And next time you’re tempted to ask the question yourself, consider the following…
- Don’t ask the question if you don’t really want to know. If you are going to simply ask someone how they’re doing, be prepared for anything and be a good listener.
- Re-frame the question to get a more focused and clear response. Instead of a vague, “how are you doing,” try something like “how’s your big project coming along?”
- Replace the question. Instead of using “hey, how are you doing” as your generic greeting, go with something like “hey, good morning.”
Are you like me, an introvert who sometimes finds casual conversation to be a challenge? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts or any other similar situations you find challenging.