How Are You?
Your day goes the way the corners of your mouth turn.
Our answer to the question How are you? seems like such a small thing. But we must answer that question at least 10 times a day — and perhaps as many as 50. So it’s not a small thing at all. It’s a significant part of our daily conversations.
When does someone ask How are you? what do you say? Your answer is usually no more than a few words. And yet, that short response tells a lot about you — and your attitude. In fact, your response can literally shape your attitude.
I’ve observed that the responses to How are you? can be classified into three categories: negative, mediocre, and positive. Let’s examine these three categories and some common responses under each one.
The negative replies to How are you? include phrases such as:
“Lousy.” “Terrible.” “I’m tired.”
“It’s not my day. ” “Thank God it’s Friday.”
“A day older and a dollar broker. ” “Don’t ask.”
When someone responds with “Don’t ask,” I know I’m in trouble. That person is going to unleash a multitude of complaints and make me sorry for asking How are you? in the first place!
And I really pity those who take the “Thank God it’s Friday” approach to life. Think of what they’re saying. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are bad days every week.” For these people, four-fifths of their workweek is lousy! The fifth day, Friday is “bearable ” only because they know they’ll have the next two days off! Is this a way to live your life? Are you beginning to see how these negative phrases can poison your attitude… and turn off other people?
Those in the mediocre group are a step up from the negative bunch — but they still have plenty of room for improvement. Here are some of the things they say:
“I’m okay. ”
“Not too bad.” “Could be worse. ”
“Same old, same old.” “Hangin’ in there.” “Fine.”
Do you really want to spend a lot of time with someone who thinks that life is “not too bad ”? Is that the person you
want to do business with? When we use words like these, we also diminish our energy. Can you imagine someone saying “Could be worse ” with an upright posture… and a lot of enthusiasm? Of course not. These people sound like they haven’t slept in two days.
There’s no getting around it. People who use mediocre words will develop a mediocre attitude… and get mediocre results. And I know you don’t want that!
Then, there’s the positive approach. These are the enthusi- astic people who say:
“Terrific.” “Fantastic.” “Great.” “Excellent.” “Super.”
“I’m on top of the world.” “It doesn’t get any better. ”
Those who use positive words like these have a bounce in their step and you feel a little better just by being around them. Be honest. How did you feel as you read the positive list? I don’t know about you, but I’m energized and excited as I review that list. These are the people I look for-
ward to meeting today. These
are the people who are more likely to get my business.
Why not go back and re-read the negative list and the mediocre list. Say them out loud. How do they make you feel? Bummed out, for sure!
A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
You see, if, given the choice, I’d rather be around people who are positive and full of life… as opposed to those who are negative and listless. It’s like the old saying that everybody lights up a room — some when they walk into the room… and some when they walk out! You want to be the one who
lights up a room when you walk in!
As for me, when someone asks me How are you? I usually respond with Terrific! It projects a positive attitude to the other person and the more I say it, the more I feel terrific!
Join The Positive Group
Well, you’ve had a chance to review some typical responses in each category — negative, mediocre and positive. Which of these phrases do you use most often? Which responses do your friends and family use?
If you find yourself in the negative or mediocre group, I suggest you immediately consider revising your response and joining the ranks of the positive. Here’s why. When you’re asked How are you? and you say Horrible or Not too bad, your physiology is adversely affected. You tend to slump your shoulders and head and take on a depressed posture.
What about your emotions? After stating that you’re lousy, do you feel better? Of course not. You feel even more down in the dumps because negative words and thoughts generate negative feelings, and eventually, negative results.
And it’s up to you to break it. Even if real circumstances in your life persuaded you to state that you’re lousy — per- haps a promising business deal fell through, or your child received poor grades in school — your gloomy attitude does nothing to improve the situation. To make matters worse, your mediocre or negative reply turns others off; they’re dragged down just by being around you and hearing your pessimism.
Form A New Habit
If all of these negative consequences flow from your words, why do you continue to say them? More than likely, it’s because you haven’t recognized that you have a choice in the matter. Instead, you’re following a habit that you developed many years ago… a habit that no longer
In the end, your own words are a self-fulfilling prophesy — if you say Everything is terrible, your mind is attracted- ed to those people and circumstances that will cause that statement to be true. If, on the other hand, you repeatedly state that your life is Wonderful! your mind will begin to move you in a positive direction.
For instance, just consider what happens when you respond that you’re Excellent! or Terrific! As you say these words, your physiology begins to correspond with your optimistic language. Your post-
there is more upright. Other people are attracted to your energy and vitality. Your business and personal relationships improve. Will all of your life’s problems magically disappear? No, but you’ve set in motion a very important principle: We get what we expect in life.
Say you are well,
or all is well with you, and God shall hear your words and make them come true.
— Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I can tell you from firsthand experience that this is one of those little things in life that makes a big difference. About 15 years ago, when someone asked me How are you? I’d say something like Okay with very little energy. Do you know what I was doing? I was programming myself to have “okay ” relationships with people. I was programming myself to have “okay ” success. I was programming myself to have an “okay ” attitude… and an “okay ” life.
But then, thank goodness, I learned that I didn’t have to settle for an “okay ” life! So I picked up my response a few notches and began to say Terrific! I said it with some energy. Sure, at first it was a little uncomfortable. Some people looked at me like I was a little strange. But after about a week, it started to come naturally to me. And I was amazed at how much better I felt, and how people were much more interested in talking with me.
Believe me, this is not rocket science. You don’t need talent, money, or good looks to have a great attitude You just need to get in the habit of using a high-energy, positive response, and you’ll get the same exciting results I got!
What If I Don’t Feel Terrific?
Whenever I do a presentation and recommend to the audience that they give a very upbeat response to How are you? someone always comes up to me afterward and says, “What if I really don’t feel terrific? I don’t want to lie to my friends and co-workers by telling them everything is wonderful when it isn’t.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I put the highest value on integrity… and telling the truth. Yet, I don’t think this is a matter of telling the truth. Let me explain.
Assume for a moment that Sally feels tired. When someone at work asks her How are you? she wants to be perfectly honest so she says, I’m tired. Here’s what will happen. Sally will reinforce the belief that she’s tired. She’ll feel even more fatigued. She’ll probably slump her shoulders and let out a sigh. She’ll have a lousy, unproductive day at work.
And let’s get back to the person who asked Sally the
question — and who probably
A cloudy day is
no match for a sunny disposition.
— William Arthur Ward
regrets it now! That person also feels worse. After all, when someone tells you how tired she is, do you feel uplifted? No way. Just the suggestion of the word “tired” and you start yawning.
So, Sally has brought herself down, as well as her coworker.
Okay, Sally goes home after her grueling day, and now she’s exhausted. So she plops into her favorite chair and opens the newspaper to look at the winning lottery numbers. As she pulls her own ticket out of her wallet, she dis- covers that she’s holding the winning ticket. She just won
What do you think Sally would do? Remember, she’s
You and I both know that Sally would leap out of her chair, be jumping up and down, screaming and waving her arms in the air. You’d think she was leading an aerobics class. Naturally, she’d run to pick up the phone to call her family and friends. She’d be a bundle of energy and would probably stay up all night celebrating… and planning what to do with the money!
But wait a second. Ten seconds ago, this woman was exhausted. Now, she’s got the energy of a 15-year-old cheerleader who has just been told she made the cheerleading squad. What happened in those 10 seconds to change someone from being utterly exhausted… to wildly exuberant? Did she get a shot of vitamin B-12? Did anyone throw a bucket of ice water in her face?
No. Her transformation was entirely mental!
Now I’m not trying to diminish what Sally was feeling. Her fatigue was very real, but it wasn’t as physical as mental. So, was Sally telling the truth when she said she was tired? It really has very little to do with the truth. It’s a matter of what Sally chose to focus on. She could concentrate on feeling tired. That was one option. On the other hand, she could have thought about the many blessings in her life and felt very fortunate and energized.
How we feel is very often a subjective matter. When we tell ourselves that we’re tired, we feel tired. When we tell ourselves that we feel terrific, we feel energized. As you’ll recall from Lesson 2, we become what we think about.
Respond With Enthusiasm
For the next month, try this experiment. When does anyone ask How are you? — whether it’s someone at work or a cashier at the store — respond with energy and enthusiasm that you’re Great! or Terrific! Say it with a smile and a sparkle in your eye. It doesn’t matter whether or not you completely and totally feel terrific at that moment. Simply apply the act-as-if principle. In other words, if you want to be more positive, act as if you already are and, pretty soon, you’ll find that you have, in fact, become more positive!
Don’t worry if you feel a little uncomfortable saying these words at the beginning. Stick with it and eventually, you’ll grow into it. You’ll quickly notice that you feel better… that others want to be around you… and that positive results will come your way.
By the way, How are you?
I can almost hear you say T-E-R-R-I-F-I-C!