Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunday Intellectual Question: Good Intentions

One of the biggest topics in theatre school concerned the nature of communication. Often our words say one thing, but our tone, body and situation would convey another. I'm not sure if this is a particular problem of the English language but I suspect that it is not. One of the more humorous situations that occurs on a regular basis is this:

While walking down a street you meet an acquaintance . Without stopping the person waves and says, "Hi! How are you?"
"Good." Is the general response. Now, just a sec. Did we answer in all truth and honesty? Likely not. Did they really want to know? ... well ... In our culture this the "how are you?" question is just a greeting ... most of the time. Imagine how startled the person would be if instead of "Good." you answered ....
"Actually, I have a splitting headache, the kids ripped my pants on the way out the door so now I have to wear my coat around my waist, I'm almost in hypothermic shock, I locked my purse inside the car, and I think I'm going to cry now. How are you?"

Should we ask the question if we do not want the answer? What do you think?

BTW thank you all for your concern. I am getting a little better. The pain is not quite so mind numbing and I have been receiving physiotherapy which seems to be working. Not quite up to scratch though and speaking of scratching ... I have an itch on my left leg ... or is that too much information?:)


Anonymous said...

Good to see you on again!

Actually I've tested this type of theory and it really does surprise people when you don't say "good - even when it sort of means the same thing.
I began saying "Not unwell" but have also tried "I haven't been diagnosed with anything serious" and "My pieces seem to be all in the right place". Once I even said "purple, thanks" - but if it's that short people don't really even hear you.


Kim said...

This is soooo true. It used to annoy me to think that people really didn't care when asking "How are you?". Now I am so relieved that "fine" is an appropriate answer. People would never ask me again if I was totally truthful. Besides, I know alot of people in this City...I would never have enough time to tell everyone exactly "How I was doing!".

Cara said...

True, true. I suppose it is comforting to have some sort of greeting, and if you really needed help, an opening to ask for some. But I must say it would be fun just for the holidays to respond "Red," "Green", or "tinsel" to see a funny reaction!

Nancy said...

Hello there.... and how ARE you? Emphasis has a lot to do with communication... If someone really wants to know, they emphasize the verb... If they are surprised to see you and curious about your life, they say "how are YOU?"... funny, but, I don't think I've ever heard the emphasis on HOW... you might get the "purple" answer there!!! Great topic... Glad to know you're improving.... just in time for Christmas!!!!