How ARE you ?

One of the joys of answering the phone here is that complete strangers will begin their conversations with you by asking – “How are you ?” – and I confess this  isn’t something that I particularly like. This is because they don’t really mean it at all, and have no real interest in your well-being – it is just a “noise” phrase that they employ as part of the ritual. My daytime job here is providing technical support for an internet webhosting company, and one of my roles is to sit on the end of a phone that our clients can call when they have problems. When the phone rings – I announce my name and then wait for them to tell me their woes…. Many of them will reply by saying:

“This is Joe Schmo – how are you ?”

When this happens I feel in something of a quandary  – how honest should I be in my reply ?

On mornings that haven’t gone well, and I have been under some pressure because of problems that have occurred overnight, should I respond by saying:

“Well it’s been a really shitty morning so far, loads of things have gone wrong – and I don’t feel particularly well either – how are YOU ?”

Clearly this isn’t what they want – they have absolutely no interest at all in my health and most likely don’t even realise they are saying it…

This approach though is very much what is expected when cold-calling people. Earlier this year I was working here in Nevada for one of the 2008 presidential candidate’s campaigns, and was assigned to the phone-banks one evening. I was given a script that I was supposed to use when calling potential supporters – and the script had the dreaded “How are you ?” phrase embedded within in it shortly after you had introduced yourself and why you were calling. Needless to say I didn’t stick to this !

A favourite radio program of mine here is KNPR’s daily “State of Nevada” – where they frequently invite listeners to call in on issues that are being discussed.  

Let me put my cards firmly on the table here – I don’t much care for phone-ins….  Back in England they had a panel discussion program called “Any Questions” that listeners could respond to. When I first started listening to it – this was by means of writing them a letter (shows my age !). I liked this – when people write, they have to give thought to what they are going to say, and respond in a more measured – and frankly intelligent – way.

As time has gone on though they have chosen to use the vehicle of the listener phone in – where people just  grab for the phone and sometimes sound off in a rather vacuous tone, understanding little of the issues under discussion. This “vox-pop” method of involving the audience simply turns me off, and I no longer listen to the program. If you want to label me a snob for adopting this approach – I’ll have to take that one on the chin !

Anyway –  on “State of Nevada” – callers to the program will frequently start their dialogue with the host, Dave Berns, by saying:

“This is Fred Bloggs – how are you ?”

Dave – who is an excellent presenter – doesn’t miss a beat, and usually answers along the lines of

“Doing well….”

in order to move them on and get them to the point of their reply…..

Perhaps in time this is something I will get used to – but for now it feels a little foreign !

Oh – and by the way – have a nice day !

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