How are you?

I’ve always thought that I was anti-social, miserable and less than friendly
in a morning, but I couldn’t believe that this was the case. My problem, I
explained, is that I dislike the empty “How are you?” and “Good mornings” that
are often bounced at me by colleagues and acquaintances. I’m sure everyone means well, I’m just a stickler for sincerity, I guess.

For instance, working at my last company, I was picked out by my manager to
new colleagues as “not liking to greet people in the morning”. This was not
altogether true. I understand where she got that impression from, but I also
understand that people often don’t fully appreciate that asking someone how they
are or wishing them a good morning can feel quite hollow.

It turns out I’m not alone. Scott Hanselman’s latest podcast discussed this very detail. In it, he interviews Aslam Khan, an IT Team Manager working in South Africa. Apart from the interesting chat on the challenges working in a community that South Africa presents, Scott and Aslam discussed the emptiness of the “How are you?”. They even discussed the concept of “ubuntu time”, which is time often spent talking to people sincerely, asking how they are, how their family is, etc. This is a tradition, so to speak, that is tolerated in the workplace.

I guess I’d rather someone grunt at me, nod at me or just acknowledge my
existence with a “Hi” if all they were presenting to me was themselves as a
colleague, professional acquantance, etc. That’s not to say that colleagues and
professional acquaitances cannot be friends, but then a friend  would ask “How
are you?” and expect and be interested in a reply. If someone asks me
how I am, I make a point of telling them. If they wanted a hollow “Oh,
ok, how are you?”, or “fine, what about yourself?”, they needn’t have asked. I
tend to be able to put sales people off quite quickly using this technique as I
guess it’s not in their “script” and they end up having to think about talking
about real things to real people.

I’d rather people were sincere to me. If you see me as nothing more than an
acquaintance who you share office space with, then a simple “Hi” will suffice.
Otherwise, please, feel free to ask how I am, but do expect a reply. I fully
believe in being sincere to people, I’d like the same back.

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