"What's the No. 1 thing I can do to have a better conversation?" The podcast host asked me. "What do you think I'm missing out on?"
It was a great question.
I don't think he was expecting the answer I gave or how practical it is: Give a better answer to the question, "How are you?"
He looked at me, a little confused. Then we started playing out the conversation and here's what happens:
"How are you?"
"I'm good! How are you?"
And then? Silence. An awkward pause. A clunky transition. A game of 20-questions. Any and all of these possibilities contribute to a desire to end the interaction as quickly as possible.
Here's what most people don't realize: Your response to "How are you?" is a critical moment in a conversation.
It's the moment you get to introduce topics you want to talk about. Your response directs the conversation. Answering with "Fine." "Good" or even "Living the dream." isn't a response most people can follow up on.
Your answer to "How are you?" should:
"I'm awesome and looking forward to getting away this weekend."
"I'm great now that I've wrapped up a big project at work."
"I'm excited to check out a new restaurant tonight."
Imagine how much easier it is to get the conversation going after a response like that compared to your standard one-word reply.
Two additional notes:
1. I am a huge proponent of using Success Statements in these moments because it's an easy way to advocate for yourself.
2. If you want to take you communication skills to the next level, stop using "How are you?" as a conversation starter. It doesn't give you the answers you think you're going to get. I explain why in my on-demand video series Asking Better Questions.
Thinking through and planning your response to a question like "How are you?" is one way you can become a better conversationalist and improve the conversations you're having right now. Practice now so it's second-nature when you get out and socialize and talk to people in real life.