Thursday, February 16, 2012

Optimistic attitude; optimism with an attitude

My friend said, "I read an article related to optimism at work" and "if someone asks 'How are you', instead of saying 'good', 'fine' etc., reply 'I am terrific' , 'Never felt the same before'". Does this work? Do I do this? Instead of replying privately, I'm setting this out in public. I don't get a lot of blog comments here, but that's okay, I'm still able to share the URL.

First, what does it say about your mental and emotional state if you answer with the standard response ("fine.")? Are you in a rut? Is it simply a meaningless human interchange, similar to a parade wave, non-specific, uninteresting and ritualistic? How often do people really want to know how you're feeling? How often do you want to know many details of colleagues lives when you pass them in the hallway? I like to think I don't always say "fine." I heard that enough from my then-middle-schooler ("How was school?" / "Fine"). I also like to think I don't just ask "How are you" for no reason, or any other alternate version ("how you doing, how's life treating you, what's new?). What are my standard answers? "Peachy keen" is one that gets a laugh. People know from that answer I'm feeling good, spunky, chirpy. And if things aren't going well (you'd have to be a total dreamer to think everything is fine all of the time), then "Meh" or other guttural responses are called for ("Ugh, Bleah, Blech, etc.) Any of these must be followed immediately with some detail, otherwise, just say 'fine."

Second, does your answer depend on who asks the question and how receptive to significant details they are? Yes, of course. There are people who I know that care more about me than others do. I'm not likely to either spend a lot of energy on someone who is unreceptive, nor share burdens with them if they have shown little empathy in the past. That social "check list" of who deserves more openness and honesty is mere human nature. Should we change the menu sometimes and share randomly with those who don't normally listen? Sure, but only with the assumption that you'll get no response.

Third. Do you like winding up total strangers? In the same vein, do you treat every random person equally? I'm not talking about commercial transactions like chatting with store clerks or service people. I'm talking about the man in the street, person on the bus, anyone you stand near in a public place. I'm not always open and communicative, but I think I could and would speak to nearly anyone. Asking how their day is going, and expecting to hear a fully qualified answer, instead of "hi, how you doing, later" is extra-personal.

Fourth: "have you replied like this to anyone before?" (meaning "I'm terrific" not "fine"). Sure, not much lately, but I think I've used the word "awesome" and others instead of bland answers a lot of times. Probably more than others have said it to me, or maybe that's just my spin,

In conclusion:

'Jim, how are you'?

Spectacular. You?


@jonerp said...

"Optimnism at work" - what a bunch of bullpucky. Compulsively cheerful people don't interest me anymore. People who get things done interest me. People who speak truth when it comes at a price interest me. People who listen hard and aren't put off by some gruffness interest me. Friends like you interest me as you keep it real.

I'm way more interested in those who are passionate, creative and committed than those who believe that saying the right happy superficial things means something.

Kumud Singh said...

We can look it at the other way round:
Passionate people are often cheerful and optimistic people.
I am yet to meet someone who is a combination of pessimism and passion.
It is difficult to find morons who often use sad words or not chirpy words who have accomplished big challenges.
I have also experienced that many times what we say deeply, at times, impact our own selves. If I say I am happy, it may impact me to be happy. Being real is always great.
Superficial answers can easily be identified,if not immediately,certainly with time. So if things are going well and if someone asks me 'How are you' I don't mind replying 'I am fantastic' instead of 'I am fine'!


jspath55 said...

Hey, thanks for the dialogue so far, my friends. This topic is of critical importance to me, particularly lately when it's that dark end of year time, and performance appraisals engage many people. I think my personal satisfaction level is derived from matters well outside the cubicle maze, as the saying goes, no one on their deathbed says I wish i wish I had spent more time at my desk.
But as many of our daily human interactions occur in the office, how we act and react there can be a fulcrum for our psyches, I think.
I agree that "compulsively cheerful" people rub me the wrong way, usually, especially the dangerously false notion those types often spout when dealing with a mental health situation, oh just snap out of it, don't worry, be happy. There are times when professsional counseling and/or chemical mood adjuster are necessary ( and life saving).
There are also times when they aren't necessary, but become a crutch for the lazy to lean on, instead of taking inititiatve and risks.
I also say that "pessimism and passion" are a rare combination, but that the most successful critics (food, art, and for me, software vendors) say what needs to be said, and say it well. My team has a saying (we hate the P word) - story for another time.
I like the notion of personal choice a lot. When faced with saying the mundane "fine", speak with a broader vocabulary. Every encounter doesn't have to be a new adventure, but neither should every one of them be mind numbing.

hwharts.horn said...

I often reply "Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!" Since almost anything is better than a poke in the eye, it usually serves me because A) its true and B) it makes people smile. Que tenga feliz dia! Ojala...