Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The "How are you doing?" Response Rule

The question "How are you doing?" has caught my attention today. Usually when someone says hello I respond by saying hello, hi, or an equivalent I respond in some fashion. It's just the polite thing to do. Recently, I have been using the Metro New York Area greeting popularized recently by The Sopranos: "How are you doing?" It makes me look tough yet sort of interested in how the person is doing. But honestly my intentions are far from the latter. Unfortunately, there are still some (especially in the office setting) who do not understand how to properly answer this question; therefore, the following is a set of rules on responding to the question "How are you doing?"
When I ask "How are you doing?" I don't care about your life. If you were to die tomorrow the only significant impact on my life would be the cake in the lunchroom and the important lesson on seatbelt safety. I already know about seatbelt safety. It's been ingrained in me since elementary school and I wouldn't eat the cake because most likely it is a horrible tasting cake bought in you honor because you like Rice Pudding and Bananas. You will be last remembered by me as some one who likes shitty cake and can't follow simple traffic laws.
The response to the question "How are you doing?" can be nothing, a short response with no actual meaning, or a bad joke (but since it is in the office setting both parties need to give the courtesy laugh). If the person actually wants to know about how you are really doing, he or she will ask a more specific question like :
  • "How are you feeling?"
  • "What's wrong? You can always tell me."
  • "How are you really doing?"
  • "Anything bothering you, dear?"
  • "How are you doing, hon?"

Notice in the last question the addition of the cordaliality "hon" used mostly by females and gay guys. This ending nicety is added as a sign of concern. Groups using this add-on are the except to the "How are you doing?" Response Rule. They actually care how you are doing.

Here are a list a of pre-approved responses to "How are you doing?"
  • No Response - always acceptable, because the party who asked "How are you doing?" doesn't really care so won't be listening to a response anyway
  • "Fine" -or- "Just Fine" - Simple and Effective
  • "Okay" - just a quick response to an Okay day
  • "Well" - things are going well, but I won't bore you with the details unless you ask.
  • A short description of what you are currently doing. i.e. "Thinking about getting lunch" or "Getting a paper clip."
  • "Better than Britney Spears" - Pop Culture references in the form of bad jokes are acceptable answers as long as they refer to something in last week's news or some well known event or personality. As such "Better than Otto von Bismarck after Emperor Wilhelm II forced him to resign" is not acceptable while "Higher than Willie Nelson" is.
  • "Case of the Mondays" - References to certain movies are more than acceptable answers. Acceptable movies are, but not limited to: Dumb & Dumber, Office Space, Zoolander, Wedding Crashers, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, Any Mel Brooks Movie, Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison (Not Big Daddy), Swingers, or Old School. The list is not complete. Sports references are also allowed.
Responses to avoid:
  • "Good, but the wife and kids are blah blah blah..." - No one cares about your wife and kids unless your wife is hot and you are getting a divorce. You kids are not as cute or as smart as you think they are. Most likely they are just like every other stupid kid or even stupider.
  • "Well, I couldn't get to sleep last night because the cats were..." Listen you old spinster, no one will ever want to hear a sentence revolving around your cats until the day comes when you finally kick the bucket and an office rumor starts that when they found your decaying corpse after a week the cats had eaten half of it. No one care about you or your wasted life.
  • "How are YOU doing?" - This is recycled joke from an old Budweiser commercial. It was funny for about 1 month after the commercial aired. Now it is only being used by that guy in the office who isn't funny but desperately wants to be. I hate him because he ruins my jokes by taking credit for the joke if it was funny or inaccurately repeating them and then telling everyone it was his joke so don't blame him if it offended you. This guy is an ass. I hate him. If you are reading this blog and are thinking "I am not that guy. I don't screw up the jokes" or "I am not that guy. I just wanted to share his funny jokes with everyone. What's wrong with that?" you are that guy and I hate you. Take a bath with a toaster.
The other exception to the "How are you doing?" Response Rule is when you have an actual question or concern for the person asking the question. Here are three examples:
Boss and Employee

Boss: How are you doing?
Employee: Fine, but I had a question about today's TPS Report.

Two Friends

Friend 1: How are you doing?
Friend 2: Fine, but what was with you last night?
Friend 1: What doe you mean? I blacked out.
Friend 2: Not only did you hook up with that whale of what I hope was a
woman, but you ran around the room with her giant panties to prove it.
Check your pocket. They're probably still there.
Friend 1: [checks pocket] Oh man...

Story Time

Guy 1: How are you doing?
Guy 2: Okay.
Guy 3: Fine, but last night I went drinking with Jill from Accounts
Payable and, well, check out what she did to my back. [lifts up shirt to reveal
Guy 1&2: No fucking way!

Notice how the "How are you doing?" is answered quickly and then another more interesting topic is brought up.
Simple rules for a simple question. Please follow them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you need to clarify the difference between the normal "How you doing?" and its distant Northern Jersey cousin, "How ya doin" (with head nod)? The only appropriate responses to the latter is 1) a reply head nod, 2) a "how ya doin." or 3) nothing. - Cheeques

June 27, 2006 9:23 AM  
Blogger Isabelle & Olivier said...

Hi ! thank you for this message because we are two frenchies in west america for one month and every day, in every shop or restaurants, people asks us this question : "hello, how are you doing?" and we don't know what to answer. Now it's clear for us.

October 01, 2007 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks, this helped me soo much

September 24, 2008 11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate the use of "How are you doing" as a greeting. If you don't want to know, then don't ask! I always feel obligated to say 'fine.' But things aren't fine in my life at the moment. So answering 'fine' makes me feel like a liar. Why can't people just say 'Hi' or 'Hello' and be done with it!

July 08, 2009 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Mika said...

Hey, How are you doing ?
I loved your topic, thanks !

July 18, 2011 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Ashly Mika said...

I am going to leave this comment in two parts: This is part 1: America will continue to depreciate for as long as this problem continues of people in America who do not care about the lives of others, and work in this land only to help their own ; but if we all were to unite, no one need would be left not met. Yet in today's ununited society, there are needs not being met at the palm of the hands of those whose resources are overflowing, and not enough of those people with overflowing resources are sharing their overflow to defeat depreciation of society, instead they walk around not caring if the lady on the bus they sat next to had eaten today, and even if she hadnt, they probably do not want to share their two dollars for a burger, not because they cant afford it, but they dont want to make the extra trip to the bank later. But wait, what would they do if it was their sister? or mother? or daughter? Yet all these sisters, and mothers, and daughters are going hungry. I know because I am one of them every once in a while, and even if I responded to the "How are you" question with "hungry and broke and no one to help", the person who asked would respond with a nervous chuckle, pretend to answer their phone, turn away, and leave in a hurry. America's inability to sustain satisfied survival as a whole does not come from a lack of resources, it comes from a lack of concern for another's needs for resources from the perspective of the person with whom resources are overflowing. The depreciation society is suffering through the hunger, homelessness, sickness and disease, domestic violence, robberies, drugs, and the murders that result from them – which would be slightly prevented if the need for robberies and drug dealing to survive in happiness and comfort did not exist, will not be defeated to the best of our abilities until society unites, and those who have more than they need of resources begin to give resources to those who have none. How many people do not have the access to a shower, or a clean wardrobe, or hygeine products, or transportation, or a bed, or other necessary tools for finding and keeping a job, who had them once before, and lost them through uncontrollable unfortunate events? I bet we as a society could not answer this. How many do not even know how they are going to eat tomorrow and did not eat today? How many people in this society walk around just waiting for someone to ask them how they are doing because they are so hungry, or heartbroken, or homeless, or unsafe that they are crying oceans of tears on the inside with no one to turn to for help, just hoping some one really cares about them. How many people will walk by and ask them how they are doing, and really not care, or even listen to the response. Im not even going to speak on the "I'm sorry" that people who can help give for not helping. You are not sorry, oh wait, yes you are. ........

August 10, 2011 1:21 AM  
Anonymous Ashly Mika said...

News flash: If you are living paycheck to paycheck, and have money for entertainment and recreation, this is the overflow that you could have used if you would have cared if that lady on the bus ate today, more than you cared about that movie you were on your way to, then you might have found out that her husband abused her and she had no family to turn to, she snuck into a hotel to sleep on the floor in the conference room at night, and if you cared about that you would let her sleep on your couch in the second living room that is used on rare occasions, or your two sons who you say would fight if you put them in the same room who would really grow closer and probably only follow the negativity that you speak into their lives, which you know and just use as an excuse, but if you didnt, and they shared that room, and grew closer, and you helped her with her wardrobe, and provided transportation for her job search, stability, and food, she would probably get an average paying job, save her money, create business plans, get a business loan, start a successful business, and use the time and profits traveling the world lending that same helping hand to as many as her day would allow, and inspiring others to do the same. What if everyone cared this way? What would this society look like? We wouldnt have to ask people how they are doing because we would know that they are taken care of because we are a society, a family, a species that works together towards the accomplishment of happiness and comfort, the one desire we all have in common. A depreciating society will not lead to happiness and comfort for all, many will die, many will grow weak, and the depreciation will eventually lead to a second great depression if we greedy people, and I say we because as a society we are a we, if we greedy people do not start caring about the answer to this famous question. "How are you doing" So, really, next time, if you don’t care, don’t ask. And if you don’t care about the next person, beware of Karma, because that lady on the bus who was hungry, who responded with “hungry and broke”, whom you nervously chuckled to, gave a look of pity, and pretended to answer your phone to turn away in a hurry, is now working where you would never guess – as the Dean of the University that you have worked your whole life to get into, or to get your son in to, and she remember’s that time you turned away, and she shows you what it really means to care about the next, and she invites you to a special meeting, shows you special service, and offers you a bite to eat and a cup of coffe. What a way to wake you up, you were a little on the rough side today, wouldnt you say? I mean, you hadn’t ate all day, and you would have never told her What is pride anyway? Its time for this society to stop being proud of individuals conquering individuals, and to start being proud of individuals conquering society’s depletion and depreciation.

August 10, 2011 1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashly, you are a beautiful person:)

August 18, 2011 1:02 PM  

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