Why do I feel like I am one of the few people who asks the question “How is/was you day?” and actually is not only prepared to hear a real and honest answer, but genuinely looks forward to any discourse that results. Those that know me may be laughing at such a thought, with claims (mostly true) that I am not a people person.
The reality is I do not ask open ended questions of everyone. So, if I do show any interest, whether I know you well or just slightly more than vaguely, I am ultimately sincere in anything I ask. In the United States at least, most polite conversation starts off with some variation of “hello” shortly followed by “how is/was your day.”
Now of course, some are genuinely asking the question out of sincere interest, but I would definitely argue the majority that dispense the pleasantry are doing so out of routine politeness. I first had a glimpse into the depths of my mad mind when I had a 10 minute dialogue, filled with imagined facial expressions in a 10 second span when asked about my day. No, I have never taken or needed any type of psychotropic drugs and have never been alarmed by these types of conversations. I call it my vetting process, because if I said the first thing that actually came to my mind, unfiltered, as I used to do, then that might actually be something to be alarmed about.
In some of these initial, imagined conversations I could see people rolling their eyes and yawning as I had the naive audacity to actually respond to the question in some depth. Most people want a simple monosyllabic answer to the question: good, okay and so so are all acceptable answers. Good and okay almost never require further explanation only a tacit return of someone being glad for you or using it as opportunity to congratulate themselves for being perceptive enough to know who to ask the question. Depressed people and bad days are usually hard to disguise, and most know to avoid the question to those enduring either if they were only in it for polite discourse.
If the polite question gets people more than they bargained for, with a so so or not good answer to “How is/was your day”, understand most are not really prepared to hear any follow up or detail to what may be ailing you. I am not talking about close friends or family reaching out to you and doing a welfare check because they know that something is amiss. I am referring to normal, polite conversation.
So what is wrong with me that I actually ask and welcome real and honest answers to normally perceived pleasantries? That’s too loaded a question to answer here, in any depth, but let’s just say the way my mind and curiosity works is that if I ask I am generally interested. I have manners, but generally speaking, I do not say or do things that I do not mean. Part of not having a job in which I work with people in a regimented fashion, is that I really only interact with people because I want to. So if I do not want to exchange polite conversation or pleasantries with someone I simply do not. My day is not filled with obligatory banter, so I am somehow privileged to speak by choice and even the simplest question like “How is/was your day” is actually asked with not only sincerity but curiosity.
Despite my interest and curiosity, most people are so conditioned to giving the polite answer, they just simple give the conditioned response. Of course, not everyone wants to share either, but even if they did I am reminded by an expression that many of my friends share jokingly with each other when asked about our days: “I’d complain, but who would care?” It’s a self deprecating statement definitely said in jest, yet even amongst friends there is an automatic hesitation to be forthcoming without at least gauging someone’s temperature for actually listening.
So, until our society changes how we exchange pleasantries and politeness, just know that if I ask how you are or your day, I am actually prepared to hear a detailed and honest answer. I might be in the minority at the moment, but I just assume that for many the question deserves, if asked, an opportunity for honest discourse in return. If I do not want to know or do not have the time, I just stick to hello. Hello never requires acting like you care.
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