"How are you this morning?" This is a simple question, undoubtedly uttered multi-billions of times in the course of year, in workplaces throughout the U.S., and around the world. And that doesn't include all the non-work utterances of this bland and overworked five-word sentence.
Why bother about the overuse of the question? The words seem harmless. When people ask it, are they not kind and caring? Maybe not. The greeting is more of an automatic, knee-jerk utterance that people rely upon... to simply say something. If you are truly concerned about the health and well-being of others, there's so much more that you could ask.
Now, for Something Different
“What are you looking forward to today?” would bring up a whole new set of responses from nearly anybody you ask. Wouldn’t such a question be the forerunner to a more lively interaction if that was your goal? Wouldn’t it be more illuminating?
"What are your biggest challenges today?" Everyone, everyday, has some kind of challenge, if not several. If I was asked, I'd pause for a moment and consider what's on my plate. Then I'd thoughtfully respond even if I said something as mundane as, "Many things," or, "I haven't thought it through." Regardless of my response, the interaction would take a different course. My connection with the person who asked is different than if I was asked, "How are you this morning?"
"What would make this day special for you?" Now here's a question that might elicit a meaningful and thoughtful response that targets didn't even know they were about to be offered. What would make the day special for me is if you thought that this article had merit, and you actually put some of these suggested phrases into practice!
“What are you celebrating today?” This question might disarm the other party. They didn’t anticipate such a question or might not be celebrating anything. Still, they might ponder the question and offer a cogent reply, realizing that something is on the horizon worth celebrating today.
If you’re in midweek, you could potentially pose the question, “How is the week going so far?” Here, you do run the risk that recipients will resort to the single word, “Fine.” So, modify your question and ask, “What’s been the highlight of the week for you so far?” As such, you’ve asked something that merits at least a few seconds of thought, and probably will get you a more poignant response.
Other week-related questions worth posing include, "What are you seeking to wrap up this week?" And, "What happens for you at the end of this work week?" Both questions will elicit a more spirited response than, "How are you this morning?"
If you have any insider knowledge about what the other party has been working on, you could ask more pointed questions such as, “How is the XYZ project coming along?” Or, “What roadblocks are you running into on the XYZ project?”
Further, you could ask, “Are you over the hump on the XYZ project?” or, “Have you been getting the support you need for the XYZ project?" In other words, elevate the conversation from some vague and perfunctory question.
Here’s one not to ask, “How is life treating you?” which is non-sensical when you break it down. “Life” does not “treat you.” Life is what you experience. Also, the question can be viewed by some as condescending or elitist, as if to imply I’m doing very well, and oh, by the way, how are you doing?
You could successfully argue that asking, “How are you this morning?” is less intrusive than the recommendations above, which coax people perhaps into revealing more of themselves than they might prefer. So, 1) who’s asking the questions and 2) their relationship with the other person are crucial.
You have a world of options, nevertheless, when it comes to interacting with others at work, in your personal life, and everywhere in between. You can step away from the masses and not ask the same old stuff, or offer the same old greeting. In that respect alone, you will stand out, perhaps form a stronger bond with the other party, and more than likely feel better about yourself.
So, go ahead, try some new greeting-type of questions starting today, and see if the benefits don’t begin to accrue immediately.