frisbeeWhen I first moved to the U.S. all those years ago, one of the things that struck me was how people would ask the question, “How are you?”

Seeing as how I first lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area, I most often heard, “Hey, how are ya?” Thrown out in a breezy, casual way, almost like a frisbee tossed across Golden Gate Park.

But the questioner usually didn’t wait for an answer. The frisbee soared in a beautiful arc, but whether it landed on the grass, or in a shrub, or a tree, or trash, no one knew.

I came to adopt the “hey, how are ya?” style of greeting; after all, it’s tough not to adopt the mannerisms of a people and place you’re immersed in. When in Rome, and all that.

But I always waited for the response. It was just what I was taught to do.

And if I was asked the question, I’d answer honestly. Sometimes in greater detail than the questioner probably expected, but I’ve never been one for not saying what’s on my mind. That probably explains the weird looks I’d get… ha!

To this day, this is a habit. So if you ask me how I am – which, let’s face it, has become as cursory a greeting as “Good morning!” – I will tell you. Even if you ask on social networks.

If I’m doing well, I’ll probably say, “Good!” If I’m feeling really good, I’ll probably say, “Great!” or “FAB!” (Yes, in ALL CAPS.)

If I’m not feeling that hot, I might say, “Meh,” or “Comme ci, comme ça.” But whatever it is, my response will be representative of how I really am, not how I want people to think I am.

The things you learn

Yesterday, I asked a friend and former IABC/DC Metro colleague how he was (via email); I haven’t seen him in a while. I learned that his mother recently passed away and that his family home is an original Sears mail-order house.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a social media friend (on the phone, I like to do that), and learned of how she is handling some really tough times – tougher than anything I’ve ever experienced – with so much grace that it awed me.

By asking, “How are you?” I’ve learned of parents suffering from Alzheimer’s, children suffering from cancer, women fleeing from abusive relationships, TV journalists’ admiration for public relations pros…

… all from people I “know” through social media but have never actually met.

The way I look at it is this: when you ask that question with sincerity, people respond in kind. They tell you things they might not otherwise.

They tell you these things because they realize you are genuinely interested in knowing the answer, so they trust you with it.

And by virtue of using those three simple words, you build that relationship a little more. And isn’t that what this is all about, this social media “thing,” to help us get to know each other, connect with each other, better?

So when we meet in 3D, as it were, we aren’t completely overwhelmed by the real human being behind the avatar.

So: how are you?

I would really like to know, because this is how I get to know you better (and heaven knows you put up with everything I publish here on WUL!). You don’t have to tell me anything you’re not comfortable sharing. But do tell me how things are going, what is on your mind and how… you… are.

And then, when we meet in person, we’ll be so much more than tweeting up or networking, we’ll be one step further on the road to being friends.

How are you?

Image: nonrev via Flickr, CC 2.0