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English Communication: How Are You? Two Angles of View

English Communication:  How Are You?  Two Angles of View

shutterstock_146389226“How are you?”

Simple little phrase, yes? But it drives international people a little crazy in the U.S.

That’s because in their home country, if people say, “How are you?”, they really do want to know how you are doing or what is happening in your life.

First angle of view for this phrase: In the U.S., this is a ritual greeting.  When you say, “How are you?” you are acknowledging the other person.  It is the same as “Hi.”   How do you know that?  Because often there is no opportunity for other persons to respond with utterances expressing their state of well-being.

Second angle of view: This little greeting ritual will actually tell you a great deal about other people, even if they only respond with a word or short phrase.  The expected answer–ritual answer–is “fine,” or some variation.  “OK.”  “Not bad.” “Just fine.”  The key is mostly in the tone of voice and the body language.   35% of a person’s impression of you comes from your tone of voice.  And 55% of impression comes from body language.

Thus, listen and look.  You will get a good handle or idea of the genuine mental, emotional state of other people if you closely listen and look.  Combine all three– the words, the tone of voice, the expression on people’s faces, the set of their shoulders, their posture—and you will know whether the person is exuberant, in great mental shape, feeling above average, feeling average, in kind of OK shape, or dreadful.  We are all expected to say “fine,” or similar.  But if you truly are wanting to know how the other person is doing, then look and listen.

Why would you want to know?  Because adjusting your communication to the other person will give you powerful outcomes.  Based on your perception of the other person’s well being, you can make good judgment about what to communicate, how much to request.  Getting a match up between other people’s communication mode and your mode will allow you to build unconscious empathy with other people.  The outcome?  Communication will be more successful, more satisfying.  For a vivid example, if you say, “How are you,” and the other person’s face drops into one of tenseness (look to the eyes and the skin around the eyes, for tension around the mouth, or a body posture which looks stiff), then the advice is to pursue the question to determine what is happening with the other person–for example, if the person has suffered a big loss (i.e.,  loved one—perhaps via breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend or the death of a dear husband or mother or cousin).

Also, for most effective communication, match the communication demeanor of the other person.  That means you match the same positioning of the arms and legs, and have the same level of energy and loudness .  That means you lean forward into the talker.  Remember, people will indeed tell you their mental and emotional state if you know how to read the signs.

I recommend you match in tone of voice and in body language, the mode of the other person.  That is your instant empathy and connection.  Then take a moment to adjust your communication message.

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