The Conversation Starter

08 Oct

I’m sure you must’ve thought of this at some point too – how strange this phenomenon is! It almost borders on amusement. I’m talking of the way people greet each other every time their paths cross!

We don’t have to wander too far to encounter an example of this. Just take a trip to where the coffee-wending machine is located at work (or the water cooler). Chances are, you are going to cross a handful of people on the way, half of whom are going to greet you with a nod or a smile (perhaps a higher percentage if you are the popular kinds). A lot of them might also add “Hey! How are you?” or “How’s everything going?” or a dozen so variations of the same.

Upon hearing this, you shall hear yourself say, “I’m good, how about you?”, as if someone inside the compartments of your brain just pushed the auto-pilot button. Almost every such encounter puts me in a mood to philosophize. And I admit (and often wonder why) I, more often than not, don’t quite say the truth here – the truth being that “good” isn’t the scenario that applies most of the times! I mean, I might be doing splendid, having just received an appreciative comment from the client for all my hard work or I might be feeling like a permanent resident of certain “between the rock and that hard place”. I might be gloomy, sad, ecstatic, overjoyed, sick or tired, happy or blissful or I might just not be feeling anything at all except a longing for my morning cup of tea!

And so the question remains, if I’m not feeling “good” per se, then why on earth am I saying it?! So I took up an experiment! I decided that the next time I cross someone in the corridor and a (poor) soul asks me, “how are you?”, I’m going to tell the truth!

(Needless to say, the experiment didn’t really last as long as I had hoped. I could derive my conclusions within a few encounters itself). So here are my findings:

  1. Out of the 20% who ask you “how are you”, most had their own auto-pilots that prompted them to ask you this question and they really couldn’t care less about the answer. For this set, if you launch into a complex explanation of what you are really feeling, it is just going to serve them as a reminder to filter this question out of their brains the next time they see you.
  2. If you happen to find someone who looks remotely interested in your situation, don’t assume the status quo to last until your next encounter with this person. It won’t.
  3. If you do really get a chance to have a fulfilling conversation, at the end of which you are certain of having explained your true feelings to your heart’s content, you will (in all likelihood) conclude that the whole ordeal, howsoever satisfying while it lasted, was really a waste of your time as the person is most likely:
    1. An innocent (gullible) stranger
    2. Someone who really should be somewhere else
    3. Someone who is somewhere else … mentally
    4. Someone who will attempt to be somewhere else the time they see you
    5. Someone who might genuinely care (rare!) but can’t obviously do anything about your feelings

Thus, to provide you an executive summary (in case you ever wish to launch one of your own such experiments), here is the revolutionary conclusion:

Almost no one really gives a $@#! of how you are really doing (pardon my French). No one cares, no one has the time to listen to your charade and no one most certainly means any disrespect by it. A “How are you doing?” is not a concern for your general well-being (unless asked by a shrink). This is just an extension of a greeting, loosely translated to, “I see you, I recognize you, I want to seem polite so I’m saying hello”. Do not consider this an invitation to pour your heart out – use meeting requests for that.

To ensure that is blog post of mine does not border on Theory X, I present a philosophical end: “A man maybe going through stormy seas within, but on the surface shall almost always smile and say “I’m doing good”… representing mankind’s eternal hope and belief that “everything will be OK” in the end…”

Final chocolate sauce: a quote my friend wrote recently as his Facebook status:

“Laughing faces do not imply absence of sorrow… just the ability to deal with it…”

Go figure!

Images courtesy, &

Posted by on October 8, 2011 in Business, Corporate, Life


Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “The Conversation Starter

  1. Atul

    October 9, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    At times it is good to pour your heart out even if the conversation turns or appears curt. Alls well when it ends well.

  2. inahans

    January 12, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    It’s all about timings really – can’t force anything upon someone who isn’t interested.


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