The Canned Response

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm

If you’re like me, you get somewhat unnerved when passing someone else in the hallway – especially when it’s only the two of you. The situation is even worse when the hallway is so long that both of you search for every distraction imaginable until the absolute final opportunity to make eye contact or say hello. I just can’t seem to master the skill of smiling comfortably – instead it’s a closed mouth smirk that, I’m convinced, makes me look like a giant tool. How do you strike the right balance between acknowledging the other person in a friendly way and coming across as weirdly interested?

When you’re going in the same direction, you’re sort of forced into having petty conversation. Plenty of people deal with this awkward passerby moment by stowing away a list of canned responses that are just lazy and unimaginative. For instance, someone asks how you are doing and you respond with “it’s Monday.” First of all, they didn’t ask you what day of the week it is. Secondly, you’re basically conveying that your life is completely mediocre. Might as well respond by saying, “actually, I’m really depressed and don’t know how I’m going to get through this week considering I hate my job and it’s only Monday.” The other absolutely terrible response is “living the dream.” What does that even mean?   Or how about “it’s going.” Huh? Or “I’m here.” Wow, I could not be more infected by your vigor for life! “Above the ground, not under it.” “Same sh*t, different day.” You may think you’re creative, but really it just makes me immediately feel sorry for you. Just say, “pretty good” and move on.

Especially in these situations, asking someone how they’re doing is really the equivalent of saying hello, right?  To avoid any confusion, actually saying “hey” is a good start and end to any encounter – as long as you can make eye contact, which can sometimes be a fight. Good morning or afternoon works, too. One and done. If you do feel the need to ask a question, make it something people can actually respond to. Don’t ask me, “what’s the good word” or “what’s good?” – this makes me have to actually think and come up with something relevant when I really just want to just say, “it’s Friday!” “What’s crack-a-lackin?” is also a great excuse for someone to walk away from you without responding.

I’ll end with the best response I’ve ever heard when half-heartedly asking someone how they’re doing. An old man replied to me with “any better and you’d have to tax me as an amusement park.” I’m convinced this would only work if you’re an old man, though.












Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of my employer nor any other organization I am affiliated with. Also, please see the “About” page in case you are offended or even mildly irritated. Thanks!


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