Last week I paid attention to how often someone asks me, “How are you?” (my count was 4 to 16 times a day). I also noticed how often I ask the question and realized it’s almost automatic.
When you’re mindful of the question, you figure out pretty quickly that nobody really wants to know how you are. It’s more of a greeting like “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Nice to see you.” (Logan, who grew up in Austria, tells me it’s a difficult phrase for native German speakers, who take it literally and have a hard time getting over the fact that the questioner is really not concerned with how you are at the moment.)
Still, it’s a common question and I heard it last week from friends, co-workers, baristas, neighbors, cashiers, telemarketers, servers, people at church. And I asked the question several times a day without thinking.
So, how are you?I’m fine. I’m all right. I’m okay.
Are the most common responses I hear.
Right behind are,Good/Pretty good Not bad/not too bad
Occasionally you hear someone say,I could be better (pessimist) or I could’t be better (optimist)
One English major told me,I’m well, thank you.
Friday at Chipotle the cashier responded,I’m making it.
I’ve heard variations of this, like, “I think I’ll make it,” and “Pretty sure I’ll make it.”
And the most interesting answers I’ve heard are,I’m fine as frog hair! If I were any better, there would be two of me!
What’s your default reply? And what does it say about who you are and how you see the world?
The first time I was at a restaurant with my friend Ray Keith, when the server asked, “How are you, sir?” Ray boomed, “I’m great!!!”
I judged the server’s response to be shock. Partly because of his volume but mostly because you never hear that response from anybody except Tony the Tiger.
When I asked Ray to explain his signature greeting, he told me about the EST seminar that had changed his life, and if I remember correctly, the “I’m great!” response had more to do with sending a positive message to himself than honestly answering the question.
I decided to test Ray’s reply back in the day, and I immediately noticed that some folks don’t like hearing you say, “I’m great!” I remember a cashier at a gas station telling me indignantly, “You’re not supposed to be great. You’re supposed to be fine!”
My friend Pastor Harold Wilson was the first person I encountered who used, “I’m blessed!” as his reply.
I’ve tried it on occasion and have gotten everything from “Really?” to “So am I!”
Recently Lynda and I were at a restaurant and were greeted with the standard, “Hello, I’m Jeb and I’ll be your server.” Being a friendly guy, I responded, “Nice to meet you, Jeb. How are you today?” Without missing a beat, he looked me in the eye and said, “Sir, I’m living the dream!”
Here’s a college student waiting tables for tips and he says he’s living the dream.
Of all the responses I’ve heard to “How are you?” Jeb’s has caused me to reflect the most.
The truth is,
I am living the dream.
And so are you.
God has a dream for you, for me and for this world, and we get to live it. I just looked up from my screen at the bright, blue sky. The oak trees are full and green. It’s one of those times of equilibrium at work when I pinch myself and think, “I really get to do this job.”
I am living the dream. And whether you feel like it today or not, so are you.
Think about that the next time someone asks, “How are you?”