It happens almost every time, when meeting someone I know and getting that first word which is Hi and I already know what the next question is going to be. It are those hidden rules of communication and social engagement, which are totally not hidden at all, but yet, not entirely understood. Because, depending on my answer to that question the rest of the conversation will either drastically change or it will just finish with a smile and a goodbye..
Why does that happen, you might ask?
It’s all in that first question! That upcoming question with those three dreadful words: “How are you?”! It is so awkward when asked, because there is never an answer fit enough to apply to everyone. Inside, I am the same person with the same mood but outside, people are different. Diversity is great, but having no rule at all, bound to that social human-correct answer, is not so great at all and mostly the total opposite of a party-starter.
The solution: Dodging!
It has always confused me, what the correct answer might be, so I have become sensei (master, best, leading, superior, boss, champion, sovereign, king, eminent, zenith, quintessential, paramount and anything synonymous to the word “expert”) in dodging that one particular sentence, which gets shot as ninja-shuriken upon me every freaking time when I engage in social contact, already for my entire life. And this won’t stop, ever!
Because that is the small-talk which is needed for most people in order to start a conversation. With those magic words, the doorway to a further conversation is being opened.
The ninja references are only to make it sound cooler, of’course.. *poof*
What else is there to answer?
There are three possible ways to return to that answer, without being seen as asocial.
- TELL THE TRUTH: *buzzer sounds* – Most of the times, this is not the answer which people want. It is called “small” talk for a reason. The truth, is too extended or too harsh for most people to deal with. Although, when they not knowing me are asking me “how are *YOU*”, it mostly reflects to them, so, to the next possible way? …
- LIE: *buzzer sounds* – “Yeah, everything is all fine” just doesn’t work and mostly I am not convincing enough to really mean those words, and, it is considered lying for me. But on the other hand, it works great with somebody that doesn’t know me, since what does it matter to a stranger anyways, what goes on in my life? It’s just not correct to answer this to someone I have met before, because it might raise more questions than before and the truth is already so difficult to remember, so, to the next possible way …
- DODGE: *ting-ting-ting* – This has become my standard way of dealing with this answer, without giving anyone a fight-or-flight response, cardiac-arrest or worse, essentially sparing many lives on this planet… No, seriously, if I dodge the answer with “I am quite ok and you?” or “Can be better, but ok”, the choice is entirely with the person who asks the answer.. The ball is in their camp now!..
You decide, if you want to hit me twice!
Dodging works best with everyone, because, my words are mostly literally meant, in any answer. Either the questioning person will interpret it as “everything is all fine”, or, when knowing me, will dig deeper into the answer and know that not everything is candy dandy. But I am alive, that’s something? not?!? :)
It’s not that I can’t be social, on the contrary, I can be very social, but it needs to be at the right time, at the right place. At a public place with a lot of people, such question would be too complex to answer, while staying focused to what the conversation is about. Impulses have a lot to do with the quality of my answers.
It could be I am having a good time, so I will be responding quite positive and it could be I am having a bad time, which would result in less positive answers; but I will keep on my smile as usually. If somebody wants to really know how I really feel, it’s better to hit me with that ninja-shuriken question twice or to make an appointment to talk about this in-depth. You got a few hours or days, right?! :)
No kidding, about the appointment, of’course. The shuriken you can keep!
Just, please, for the love of anything on this planet; DO NOT try to engage me in pure small-talk, because it will not hold on for long before I am out of words, ready to bombard you with my latest experiences in life, making your chin fall on the ground as there is no tomorrow.
I can understand that small-talk is needed to get a conversation going, but when you enter the domains of my expertise, you will get my full experiences back in that, anyways!…
But, Do I care?
What kind of question is that?! Of’course I do care.
It’s not because I mostly do not start myself with the question “how are you” or “how is your day”, that I do not care about you at all. The differences between “normal” or neuro-typical (NT) people and people with autism, is that NT’s are needing to hear the question first, before wanting to be heard. That conversation starter is needed for them, while autists just make their conversations in the wild.
According my diagnostics psychiatrist, I was lucky to have high-functioning autism together with ADHD, because else I might be a lot more quiet, which would make me appear even less social.
As an avid Star Trek lover, I just got to add this reference..
“I am attempting to fill-in a silent moment with non-relevant conversation”
So, how are you?!
“I’m quite fine and how are you?!”
This is it for now, that was already too much small-talk for me before you are going to start about the weather and the color of your curtains! But, as usually, thanks for reading to understand how I true-fully am and see you in my next post!
For your information, the image with the axe was photographed by me at Antwerpen Linker-Oever. It’s a cool viking playground!
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