#49 Try This Method to Answer Small Talk Questions

This week, I had a brief email exchange with a coworker Sarah. After we are done with the business, she asked me, “How are things going on your end?”

Have you ever feel you can have so many versions of answers to this question? Depends on where it’s asked / who asked it / how much time you have / how much time you think the question asker have / how much you think the question asker cares about how things are actually going with you.

Given the number of variables, people often give “easy” answers, such as “Pretty good. How are you?” “Not bad. How are you?”

Once in a while, I get tired of easy answers. Recently, I discovered an alternative answer to this question at work “How are you?”

I started to answer with quotes.

Life will tell you everything. But not all at once.

Here is what I wrote to Sarah: “There is a Chinese saying, ‘Eventually, life will tell you everything. But not all at once. (生活总会给你答案,但不会马上把一切都告诉你)’ I am trying to overcome technical and business challenges, one thing at a time. May the force be with you too!”

Sarah, “I love how you write and express Gloria 😊 The struggle is real.. What helps is amazing coworkers like you.”

I am glad that I turned a small talk into an opportunity to connect with my coworker by sharing a quote hopefully also inspired her.

There are many self-help / productivity / business books talking about how to perform at your best. Most common advices include:

However, you still find yourself struggling at times. Why?

Because there are so many rules we don’t know under which condition to apply which rules.

And it gets worse 🙂

Life keeps changing, which means conditions keep changing. You not only need to reassess when to apply which rule, you also question which part (and how much) of you should evolve and change, which part (and how much) of you should persist.

We all have experienced it sometime in our lives, “I don’t understand this… I am trying very hard to make sense of it… But I still don’t… “

My mind was in that space when Sarah asked me “How are you?” I feel like sharing a quote is a good middle ground between sharing truthfully how I am, and unintentionally burdening my coworker, who probably already has enough to deal with.

The purpose of small talk is to create a brief, shared reality for people to connect. Sharing a quote is even better. It lets both of us detach from our own reality, and appreciate a slice of reality created by some other wise person.

Show up for life.

Since the answering small talk question with quotes went so well with Sarah, I decided to try again (to test if this method can produce repeatable positive results).

Today Andy saw me in the hallway. I decided to walk with him to get coffee in the kitchenet.

Andy, “How are you doing Gloria?”

Me, “You know, Bill Gates’ father wrote a book called Show Up For Life. That book title itself is inspiring to me. Sometimes things are great; other times things are tough. But you show up for life. Everyday. Persistent effort makes you unstoppable.”

Andy got to share with me the mantra that he practices to keep him going. We ended up having a really meaningful conversation just within the brief period of getting a drip coffee.

How do you answer “How are you?” at work?

If you got to try answering it with a quote, let me know how it goes!

Thank you for reading. I hope you live a fulfilling life.

If this blog interests you, here is the Table of Contents of the rest of blogs in my #52WeeksOfWriting challenge.

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