Last Updated: July 12, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Lauren Krasny. Lauren Krasny is a Leadership and Executive Coach and the Founder of Reignite Coaching, her professional and personal coaching service based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also currently coaches for the LEAD Program at Stanford University Graduate School of Business and is a former Digital Health Coach for Omada Health and Modern Health. Lauren received her coaching training from the Coach Training Institute (CTI). She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan.
There are 22 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Defining yourself is a difficult process, whether you are writing a journal entry, answering an interview question, or trying to be happier and more fulfilled in your life. However, you must define who you are for yourself first before you can do it for another person. What exactly makes up a a person differs according to what philosophy you follow, but you can look at some basic parts of yourself to define who you are. For instance, you can define your skill set, your passions, your personality, and your values as a way of determining who you are.
When an interviewer asks questions about you, he or she is trying to determine whether you’ll be a good fit for the company. Is your personality a match for the company culture? Are your goals and expectations a match for what your role in the company will be if you’re hired? How would you fit in with the current team?
The best way to answer interview questions about yourself is to be honest. You are who you are. However, you also want to keep the company and the specific job in mind when you answer.
Read below for more specific tips on how to answer interview questions about yourself. Also see below for a list of the most common interview questions you’ll be asked, and sample answers.
Tips for Answering Interview Questions About You
Every interview question about you requires a slightly different answer, but there are a few useful tips you can keep in mind whenever you are asked a question about yourself.
Honesty really is the best policy. Trying to present yourself as someone you’re not may help you get a job offer, but it might not be the best idea in the long run. You need to consider whether the job would work out long-term if it’s not a match for your personality and work style or for what you’re seeking in your next position and your next employer.
Employers can often tell when an interviewee’s answers are insincere, so be genuine.
Be careful what you share. While you should be honest in the responses that you give, this doesn’t mean that you must provide information or details that might cast you in a bad light. Err on the side of being conservative in your responses, only alluding to character or personality traits that would contribute to your positive work performance in your career field. (If, for example, a candidate for a K-6 teaching job were asked what his favorite hobby was, his answer probably shouldn’t be, “Levelling up in ‘Mortal Kombat’”).
Demonstrate self-knowledge. It’s a sign of maturity when a candidate demonstrates that they have given thought to their personal strengths and weaknesses with the goal of self-improvement. Many of these questions are intended to assess your degree of self-knowledge. Be ready to confidently describe your strengths and—more importantly—explain how you have compensated for and / or overcome personal challenges.
Tone and attitude are important. If you are uncomfortable talking about yourself, try not to show this or to become defensive. While there are some inappropriate questions an employer cannot legally ask you about yourself, those discussed here are legitimate. Approach them as rapport-building conversation starters, designed to allow the interviewer to “get to know you.”
Research the employer. Be sure to review both the job listing and your resume before the interview. Think of skills, experiences, and qualities you have that make you a good fit for the position.
Then, make sure your answers align with the needs and requirements of the specific company and the position you hope to land. For example, if you are asked what your greatest weakness is, you don’t want to say something that is a core requirement for the job.
Spin the question to your advantage. The real trick in answering questions about yourself is to show how your personality and character traits make you an ideal candidate.
Don’t be afraid to “toot your own horn” a little and elaborate upon how your personality suits you well to the work you’re applying for.
Most Asked Interview Questions About You
Here are the most frequently asked “personal” questions that interviewers ask candidates, along with links to sample answers.
- Tell me about yourself. – Best Answers
- Tell me about something that’s not on your resume. – Best Answers
- What are you looking for in your next job? – Best Answers
- What is your greatest strength? – Best Answers
- What is your greatest weakness? – Best Answers
- Why do you want this job? – Best Answers
- What are you passionate about? – Best Answers
- What are your hobbies? – Best Answers
- What are your pet peeves? – Best Answers
Other Questions About You
Personal questions can range widely, from simple queries about your training and background to deeper inquiries about your individual strengths, weaknesses, self-knowledge, and career goals.
I’m sure one of the very first things you learned to say in English was, “How are you?” People will probably ask you this question A LOT! It’s really easy to answer, but there are a few things to remember. Here’s how to feel comfortable answering this question, every time.
1. “How are you?” is Simply Another Way to Say Hello — Here’s How to Answer
Most of the time, we use this question as a polite way to say hello, and you don’t need to say anything about how you are really feeling. Say one or two positive words, thank them for asking, and ask them the same question. Any of these answers will work almost all of the time:
“Great, thank you. How are you?” (very positive)
“Good, thanks, and you?” (positive – this is the most common answer)
“Fine, thanks. How are you?” (a little less positive – I’m okay)
Your answer will depend on the person who is asking, and how well you know them.
2. “Hi, Boss, how are you?”
If you are in a business situation, you might be saying hello to your boss or colleague, or meeting someone for the first time. You need to answer briefly, but in a positive way. “Great!” “I’m doing really well, thank you,” or “Fantastic!” are all good ways to answer. They will tell the other person that you are enthusiastic and ready to work. You might be shaking hands, too. Here’s how that conversation might go:
Mr. Brown: Good morning, Mr. Mendoza. How are you today?
Mr. Mendoza: I’m good, thanks. And you?
Mr. Brown: Great, great, thanks. (shaking hands)
Two things to notice here:
- The answer is short and positive, even if you have had a terrible day.
- Many times, people will answer with the word “good.” Good is an adjective, and can describe you, so it’s okay to use with the verb “to be.” You can also say “I’m doing well.” Well is an adverb, and it describes how you are doing or feeling.
3. How to Answer “How Are You?” When Meeting Strangers and Other Formal Situations
If you are talking to a waiter, a cashier at the checkout, or if you’re being introduced to a person in a casual situation, your answer can be a little different. Let’s look at a sample:
Cashier (as she checks you out): Hi, how are you today?
You: Fine, thanks. It’s a beautiful day.
Some things to notice here:
- “How are you?” is just a way of greeting someone in a polite way.
- Don’t say anything personal. For example, don’t tell the cashier that you are buying medicine because your child stayed home sick from school today.
4. How to Answer “How Are You?” When Hanging Out With Friends in Casual Situations
Your friends will probably ask you the very same question, but It might sound a little different! You might hear:
How are you doing?
Here’s the nice thing – when you are with friends and family, you can tell the truth! If you are talking to people who care about you, you can tell them that you’ve had a bad day, or that you feel tired.
One thing you still shouldn’t do is answer with a complete description of some medical problems you are having. If you are talking to a friend, you can offer more information if they ask (and if they are your friend, they probably will!) Here’s a conversation between friends:
Marta: Hi, John! How are you?
John: I’m fine, maybe a little tired. I need some more coffee.
Marta: Oh, I’m sorry. Did you sleep well last night?
John: Not really. I had a headache when I went to bed, and I still have it this morning.
A couple things to see:
- The question is the same! “How are you?” works for both formal and informal conversations.
- The answer is more personal, but still doesn’t give much information. If your friend wants more information, they will ask you.
So, How Are You?
Remember, “How are you?” is usually just another way to say hello. If you smile and say “Good, thanks,” you’ve successfully answered the question.
And extra points if you also ask, “How are you?” in response!
Now, what if you hear a different question? For example, many native English speakers will ask you “How have you been?” instead of “How are you?” So how do you answer that question? Find out in this lesson (click here)!
Every single time you meet them, people ask the same questions – “How are you?” “How have you been?” and “Are you doing well?” The answers to these are most often, “I am fine, thanks.” Boring. This is exactly why you should keep a few different replies to “How are you?” ready.
You are too cool to give the same, bland answer to this question ALL the time. People will expect you to say “good” or “fine,” so surprise them by coming up with an unexpected answer. Here are some quirky, humorous replies to the ‘how are you’ question.
Funny Responses To How Are You
- Somewhere between better and best.
- Can’t complain…I have tried, but no one listens.
- If I had a tail, I would wag it! (Wriggle your hips)
- I am as happy as a tick on a big, fat doggy.
- Oh, stop it, will you? (Say it like he or she is complimenting you even though he or she is not.)
- I love you. (This is an awesome response if you want to fluster them and catch them off-guard)
- So much better now that you are with me.
- At minding my own business? So much better than most people.
- Wondering how you are…
- Physically? Mentally? Spiritually? Financially? Socioeconomically? I am not sure what you mean.
- I am still sucking…air, that is.
- I am planning on taking over the world.
- Not bad. Could be better, though. Could be payday.
- Things could be worse – I could be you (for siblings 😉)
- Hopefully, not as good as I will ever be.
- Great, because my name wasn’t in today’s obituaries.
- Better than I was a minute ago because you are here now.
- I am better on the inside than I look on the outside.
- If I was any finer, I would be China.
- I would be better if you asked me out.
- If I was any better, vitamins would be taking me.
Best Responses To How Are You
- Armed and ready!
- My lawyer has stated that I don’t have to answer that question.
- Almost like you, but better.
- I could really go for a massage.
- How do you want me to be? (Use a sexy tone)
- I have been going through GOT in my work life. Is everything stable at your end?
- I would say I am a 9.99999 out of 10.
- I was fine – until you asked.
- If I was doing any better, I would hire you to enjoy it with me.
- I hear good things; however, you should never listen to rumors.
- Like a Pitbull in a China shop.
Witty Responses To How Are You
- I don’t know. Is it Friday yet?
- My psychiatrist says that I shouldn’t discuss it with strangers.
- I am doing a bit better than before, but not nearly as awesome as I am going to be.
- I am feeling blessed!
- I still have a pulse, so I must be doing good.
- Better than most, but maybe not as well as others.
- Doing fairly well, unless you have some contagious disease and are about to infect me 😉.
- Much better than I deserve.
- I think I am doing alright. How do you think that I am doing?
- I don’t feel that great, but look! At least my hair looks amazing.
- I am doing well…or that could be my anti-depressants speaking.
- I can’t really complain, but I will still try.
- Alright so far, but there is plenty of time for things to get bad.
- Each day is better than the next.
- Don’t ask – it’s too early to tell.
- Incredibly good looking.
- Everything is fine when you are around.
- Great, but I should warn you that I am totally biased.
- Still in bed? (over the phone)
- Getting better with every passing second.
- What an impertinent question to ask a girl! Hmmph.
- Living an amazing dream. Don’t wake me up yet. You may join me, though. There is plenty of room.
- The best I can be. I hope you are at your best too.
- I am feeling so good that I have to sit on my hands to stop myself from clapping.
Clever Responses To How Are You
- To answer that question, I need to take you back about 12 years. Do you have a minute?
- Slowly but surely dying.
- Fair to partly cloudy.
- Living a life of suppressed rage, emotional imbalance, and denial.
- Well, I have got this strange itch on my right butt cheek…
- Stellar, great, fantastic – but dead inside.
- Oh, terrible, thank you so much!
- What’s with all these questions? You a cop?
- As compared to what?
- You go first. Then, we can compare.
- I am not so sure yet.
- Living the dream! But half the time, it is a nightmare.
- Not quite there yet.
- Dangerously close to being fabulous.
- You are looking at it, baby.
- I am high-quality, 100% plant-fed. (perfect for vegans)
- The doctor said I would live.
Creative Responses To How Are You
- I had promised myself I would murder the next person who asked me that question. What should I do…I like you too much.
- Rolling with the punches.
- [*speak gibberish*]
- Your attempt at social interaction to be polite is hereby acknowledged.
- How much are you willing you pay me if I tell you?
- WHY!? WHAT DID THEY SAY?? (Act suspicious of everything and everyone!)
- Dying. Thanks.
- Hunting dinosaurs. You?
- Not today, Satan!
- I am really just trying hard to avoid ambiguous questions at this moment.
- Wondering how YOU are…
- How do you think I am?
- [*just stare for a minute*]
- Good question. (Walk away)
- Happy, and I know it. [*clap your hands*]
- I will leave that up to your imagination.
- It’s a secret.
- Do you want the short or the detailed version?
- Surviving, I guess.
- Not as good as you.
- Holy s**t, you can see me?! I died last week, since then…
- Under renovation.
- I am sober!
- On a scale of one to punching someone in the face, I am at 7.5.
- Trust me, you do not want to know.
- Next question, please.
If you know that you are one-of-a-kind, you can’t really do the same old routine. It is only natural that you will want a quirky response other than the old and bold “I’m fine, thank you.” If you want to show off how unique and witty you are, these responses are good to go with.
Pick your favorites, and rest assured that your buddies are going to be super impressed! So how are you? Send us your response by commenting in the box below. We would love to hear from you.
How would you answer this simple question? Who are you? I recently posed this question to participants at the Awards and Personalization Industry Expo in Las Vegas where I was speaking on the topic of Corporate Culture, Reputation and Values. Actually, I pose this question to most every group I work with regardless of whether it is ‘business’ or ‘life’ related – isn’t everything life related? Back on topic. Why do I ask this question? Because I believe it is one of the most difﬁcult questions for someone to answer on the spot, yet the most important question of one’s life.
Consistently in my practice, I ﬁnd that people answer with what they do, and not who they are. They rattle off their stats, so to speak, and a list of the roles they play in life. The ole name, rank and serial number. For example, “My name is Ann Papayoti, I’m from Birmingham, Alabama. I currently reside in Montreal, Quebec. I had a 17-year career with Delta Air Lines before opening a consulting business with my husband, and more recently my private coaching business. I’m 54-years-old. I’m married, with 3 kids, 2 cats, 1 dog and I enjoy reading, dancing and traveling.”
Okay… but who are you? The answer should begin with ‘I am’, as any English grammar teacher would tell you.
Let’s try this again (values are underlined). I am a seeker of truth, and ﬁnd it through ongoing education, spiritual growth and in appreciating my creativity. I live integrity in my words, deeds and actions. The lines on face are authentic, and remind me of my ability to persevere through adversity. The world is my family, and I believe in love and compassion and leaving each personal encounter with a smile.
Could you deﬁne who you are in a similar way? By taking value words that represent what is most important to you and put them into actionable statements that represent you? What about your company? Could you state what it’s motivations are for being in business beyond making money?
As a coach, I work with individuals and business to deﬁne who they are and what they stand for – in other words, what they value. When my now 21 year-old was a going-out-on-the-town teenager (drinking age in Montreal is 18), I would always say to him as he was leaving the house, ‘remember who you are and what you stand for!’ to which he would respond with the dramatic eye roll and the occasional ‘whatever’. You know what? He knew what I meant. He knew that I meant be conﬁdent in what you believe in and represent beyond the walls of this house so that you are not inﬂuenced otherwise. So that you lead rather than are led. So that you respect yourself tomorrow. So that you are happy, fulﬁlled, void of conﬂict, guilt and shame.
If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Katie Perry purrs it out in a song, but I believe Shakespeare was known to have ﬁrst written it in some form. I’ll have to fact check that. Regardless, knowing what your guiding principles are and being able to articulate them is is having that conﬁdent sense of self that will carry you through daily decisions and critical moments. It will give you peace when you say no, and conﬁdence when you say yes.
Here is a list of values to help inspire your thinking. Download here.
(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)
The next time someone asks how you are, consider it a trick question. Do not respond with a one-word answer like “good” or “fine.” You can start with small talk, but don’t talk about the weather for more than a minute. Small talk yields small results. To achieve big impact, use this question as an opportunity to share meaningful information that will help to advance your career. Here are five better ways to answer the question, “How are you?”
1. Share a recent accomplishment.
Share your “wins.” Let the person know of a promotion, an award, a leadership appointment, a recent talk you gave or an article you wrote. When someone asks, “How are you?” and something positive in your life just happened, tell people. If you do not say anything, people will not know. Successful companies have great publicity and marketing teams. You are your business, and you have to be your own publicist and marketing team. You are your best advocate.
When you make people aware of the things you have been doing, it puts you in a good light. Don’t think of it as bragging. Instead, think of it as helping the person think of you when they come across future opportunities and projects.
2. “I could use some help with…”
People feel valued when they can apply their expertise. If you are working on something that could benefit from the person’s knowledge, inquire if they have the time and interest to help. Asking for their help is an opportunity to get to know others better and can lead to further collaboration from which you can benefit.
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Do not assume that the person cannot or does not want to help. They will tell you if they are not interested or feel they cannot add value. Regardless, they will appreciate you asking.
Gallery: How to Prepare for Common Interview Questions
3. “I recently learned…”
Successful people are lifelong learners. Successful people also impart knowledge to others. Share something interesting you have learned. The recipient might be able to apply it to their work.
It takes discipline and curiosity for busy professionals to learn new things, whether they learn from reading a book or attending a professional development conference. Demonstrating your knowledge will leave the person impressed and aware of what you can offer.
4. “What are you currently working on?”
If you want others to listen to you, demonstrate an interest in them. Inquire about their current priorities. If it is something you can help with, let the person know how you can help. This could be an opportunity to show the person something they do not know about you and add value in other ways.
5. “What is your availability to schedule lunch together and catch-up?”
If you do not have the time that moment to respond meaningfully or are not in the best mood, ask about their availability to meet, for example, over lunch to talk. Don’t risk losing a future opportunity for a conversation to exchange information that could help your career.
When someone asks how you are, leverage the opportunity to provide a meaningful response. Share a recent accomplishment or something you learned, demonstrate an interest in the person, solicit their expertise or leave the door open for further conversation. Add value every chance you get.
What do you say when people ask you, “How are you?” Share with me your stories and thoughts via Twitter or LinkedIn.
This might be kind of vague, but I was thinking about this the other day. When someone asks “Who are you?”, what are they really wanting to know? Is your name really enough to explain who you are? Maybe the answer represents what you think of yourself. or maybe I’m just taking this way too philosophically.
7 Answers 7
If the situation is more social, it is more likely to be a request for an introduction. In that case responding with your name, and how you fit into the group socially (“I’m Joe, Jeff’s friend from college.”) should be fine.
If it is more professional, it is more likely to be a request for your role / function in the situation. “I’m Joe Smith, the lead programmer on project Y. I work with Mr. Gates’s team.”
It does depend on context, as well as the manner in which it is asked, though.
“maybe I’m just taking this way too philosophically”. I think so. In common situations people tend to be more practical than philosophical.
When someone asks “Who are you?”. Chances are they just want your name.
In some situations (if they interpret your presence as out of place or perhaps a even a threat) they might wan’t your function. like Nabeel said, “I am the shop manager”.
Maybe if a police officer ask you; tell him, “I am a wave of consciousness swirling wistfully through a reality of my own observation”. Um, on second thought, tell him both your name and your function “my name is John, I’m the shop keeper”.
Let me fist of all just say one thing: Do yourself and the rest of us, to never answer this question with just “fine”, or other blatantly boring pleasantries.
I know the question “how are you” have become one of those meaningless social rituals where you are supposed to do the boring rite of exchange: (“how are you?” “fine thanks, and you?” “fine”)
Disclaimer: If you are at a job interview or talking to your boss you might just wanna answer the question with “fine”. but toward every body else, please be creative.
Back in the days, I hated answering a question like this, because I felt it only lead to really boring conversation, and often it would even lead to awkward silence at the end because the short exchange of word have no real substance, so I decided to prepare myself and thus come up with a few funny answers.
Now a days I actually don’t use the “standard” answers listed below, I event think Its kind of bad idea to use them, because when you use canned material out in the real world then you are often NOT going to be really present in that moment, instead of concentrating on the now, you will be concentration on remembering the line, and thus you risk to come of caned or just off. But that being set I will admit that these standard answers are better than most other people’s boring real-life answers, and they definitely helped me at some point, so I have decided to post them here anyway. Just know that they are a prop, and you shouldn’t use them forever, at some point you have to try to make it up on the spot, that the only way to make something real and funny.
The Art of Answering the question: “Hi, How are you?”
“How are you?” are maybe the most frequently asked question in the whole world, the funny thing is that it is that the most people who ask this question ask you out of courtesy, only few ask because they have a real concern for you. This is in fact also why these questions often lead to very boring conversation, but you can avoid this by breaking the pattern by not answering what they expect you to answer. If you answer this question in an interesting and uncommon manner, it will positively set you apart from the rest.
Everyone is expecting you to say: Fine thank.. and you? In my experience I can be funny to do the exact opposite of they expect, here is an example:
- NOT GOOD!! I’m going through my most mayor life crisis so far.. ..and just can’t decide whether to xx or yy (xx and yy should be something silly)
- my right pinky toe feels funny, and I’m moody because I have to go grocery shopping later with my wife..
- You know.. it’s just one of those days.. work, eat sleep, hmm (thinking) NO actually is more gonna be like: work, eat dinner, eat candy, pet the kat, eat cake, watch tv, eat cake, burp, eat some more cake, go to bed, can’t sleep coz of sugar-rush, go pee, eat cake, watch the beginning of a movie while eating chocolate and drinking a little bit of beer and then sleeping..
- Not great, I just got tested positive with HIV… (looking very sad) [awkward silence] you know: handsome, intelligent and Very Charming.
- What can I say – One Word – Sexual frustrated – and kind of Horny (big smile), ..no im kidding.
- What can I say – One Word – Phenomenal
- No good, it has just been the most awful day in my life.. I ran out of milk this morning.
- Never say: “fine”: Though if you still wishes to communicate that you are fine, instead say: wonderful, fantastic, use other words than “fine”, I think that “fine” are overused.
- ” I think I feel like how you look today, Superb!
Interesting one word answers to the question (how are you?):
Refer to your physical appearance:
- “breathless” if i’d just run in from outdoors
- “wet” if i just came in from the rain
- “humid” if i just came in from a lousy hot day
Refer to your mood in that moment:
- “deeply sleepy”,
- -> make up something funny, a funny (but known feeling).
Situational Answers to the question (how are you?)
If the clerk at the supermarket ask you:
- Ah, NOT GOOD, my shopping killing me, and the arthritis in my hand doesn’t really help, and my grandchildren never calls…. Ohh wait…that’s grandma’s line… hm I’m actually wonderful how are you?”
If you catch your self replying “fine” then here is how I used to fix it.
- Fine.. I mean fine in a way that not fine.. (and then just take it from: “im actually NOT GOOD at all…” like above)
A side note: Should you ask others this question: Hi, How are you?
Well here is my advice, if you do not really care about what the other person answer to the question, like if you are just asking to be polite, then simply don’t ask, to many people walk around blurping out this you question while not caring for the reply, they seem sick of going through the motions of this question, so i my opinion they should simply just stop.
Warning: Before you memorize the line above please remember that caned material are verbal crutches that are not good for your conversation skills in the long run, but they can offer some help in the beginning and help you get started.
Lastly, here are some overall guidelines about answering question:
- If she tell you she doesn’t like something (maybe about someone something like that) tell her that you are exactly like that.
- If you don’t have a funny answer, say: “guess” this will give you a moment to re-think.
- Avoid to ask question – Statements are far better at generating conversation
How To Answer The Question: Hi, How Are You? , 4.1 out of 6 based on 45 ratings
Written by Markus
Hey Markus here, I’m the founder and humble author this website.
How to respond to “How are you?”, “What’s up?”, and other conversation starters
There are a few questions that English speakers ask at the beginning of a conversation. These questions are simple tools to find out if there are any interesting topics to discuss:
You’ve certainly heard these questions, but you might be confused about how to answer. Here’s a list of common answers to them:
How are you?
This is a simple, straight answer. If you don’t say anything else, though, it might be a signal that you don’t want to continue the conversation.
This is a more friendly-sounding answer than “fine”.
This answer is formal. You might answer this way if someone you don’t know, like a waiter at a restaurant, asks how you are.
A person who likes to be grammatically proper might answer this way. Technically, the question “How. ” should be answered with an adverb. However, a lot of English speakers don’t know or care about this. The people who do are “by the books” types who insist on using grammatically correct language.
If you don’t care as much about grammar, you can answer “Good” or “Pretty good”. It’s more common and much, much more casual.
This is an enthusiastic, excited response. It’s always good to ask a question back to the other person if you want to continue the conversation.
This answer makes it sound like you’re having a tough day.
People usually give positive answers to the question “How are you?” If you give a negative answer like this one, it usually means that you want to tell the listener your sad story. So they’ll usually ask what’s wrong:
B: I’ve been better.
B: I just found out that I’m being laid off.
How’s it going?
This question is similar to “How are you”. The answers discussed above all work for “How’s it going?” as well.
Here’s another answer that will also work for “How’s it going”, but not for “How are you?”
This is a friendly, polite answer that’s suitable for coworkers, clients, and acquaintances that you haven’t seen in a while.
This question means “What’s happening in your life?” But you don’t have to answer honestly. If you don’t want to start a long conversation, you can use one of these standard replies:
This is the most common answer. You can follow it by sharing something interesting that’s happening: “Nothing much. Just getting ready for Vanessa’s graduation.”
This is another really common answer. It’s just a bit fresher than “Nothing much” because it’s a little less common.
This is more to-the-point. It might make you seem a little angry or rude.
Answer this way if you do mostly the same things each day.
This phrase means that you’re doing the same things every day, and you’re a little bored of it.
You can answer this way if your life has been really busy and exciting lately.
This question means the same thing as “What’s up” and can be answered in the same way.
When not to answer
One other thing that you should know: all of these questions can also be used to mean “Hello”. In that case, you don’t have to answer. It would be more natural to respond with another greeting:
So how do you know whether someone really wants to know how you are, or they’re just saying “Hi”? You can tell that it’s just a greeting if:
- they’re walking by you and don’t stop to hear your answer
- they wave to you while asking
- the tone of their voice doesn’t go up at the end
Tell me quick, what do you say when someone asks you who you are? Do you struggle or do you get to the point in one seamless flow? To tell you the truth, I struggle. Do I talk about my work? My family? Or who I want to be? Which part of who we are, do we want to reveal at what time to who becomes a crucial question. Perhaps more important is another question, do we know?
You see, identity is built over time. One story, one memory at a time. If this is a case for us as individuals, imagine a collective identity, like that of an organisation. Now imagine,changing it! If you are interested in the business of fostering change read the piece titled “And Who Are You?” One particular line caught my attention: “Change that doesn’t challenge our identity is never transformative, it simply pushes us into finding another way of remaining who we are. “
On the same boat is another interesting piece titled “How to foster a culture of belonging at work”. A quick answer: watch for transition moments. It seems intuitive and a few quick applications rest in there. Simple good stuff! One line there that caused me to sit up was this: “A study analyzing emails showed new employees who do not switch from “I” to “we” pronouns during the first six months at their jobs are also more likely to leave.”
Do you want to able to do all of the above and more? Well “10 thinking methods that foster innovation” could just be what you are looking for. Very good stuff. I must hasten to add a voice of caution. Read carefully and take the time to dig for more. These are giant topics encapsulated in two-three sentences.
There are two pieces that are both incisive and are light reads. One from The Economist, titled “The Two Tribes Of Working Life“. Funny read, I must say. If you have a lame networking limb like me, you would relate to it.
To round this edition off is a lovely cartoon series on Flow. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s famous work sprinkled with Cal Newport’s ideas. Something for you to think about. That is after you have thought about who you are and if you are still reading this without being enticed by the notification on your mobile phone! 🙂
That’s that for this edition. Stay cheerful and spread the good word.
What are the markers that comprise an identity? What is the definition of identity? I recently attended a workshop lead by the impressive, and by that I mean the man speaks 15 languages, plays the violin and the viola, and is also an opera singer impressive, Dr. Derrick Gay. The bulk of the very interactive discussion focused on these two questions. Then we moved on to the good stuff where we explored the very meaning of our own identity; the end game being that if we better understand ourselves we can better appreciate others.
Dr. Gay lead us through a series of identity exercises. First we wrote down 15 words on a card (for our eyes only) that represented our identity. Go ahead, give this a shot. Stop right now and write down 15 things that configure your identity. You can list things like what I wrote: mom, wife, daughter, friend, sister, volunteer, Ohioan, New Yorker…etc.
From there we then went on to work with a partner. Person A would repeatedly ask Person B the question: “Who are you?” After each answer from Person B, Person A would again ask “Who are you?”, “Who are you?”, “Who are you?” for 60 seconds (which happens to be a really long time!) Try this with a friend or the person sitting next to you on the subway. It was interesting grappling with what words to share about yourself with a perfect stranger. This more public exercise did dredge up meatier and more interesting aspects of one’s identity.
As my identity was now on display I shined it up a bit to include the traits that at least my brain thinks make me shinier as a person. Characteristics like theater enthusiast, travel enthusiast, fitness enthusiast, cultural enthusiast, adventure enthusiast and, of course, dog enthusiast. I would also throw in family and friends enthusiast. I am sure you are picking up a pattern here – enthusiast is an across the board consistent identity marker of mine.
As I thought about this later I realized the purpose of this blog is to share the things I am most enthusiastic about so that others can GO and enjoy them too. If you spend time on the site you will notice an overarching tilt towards unabashed positivity. This is deliberate and purposeful and not to be confused with me being an easy critic. I go to lots of places, do plenty of things, and try a slew of different products with the intention of writing about them. BUT if I don’t deem them Grab Your Group and GO worthy, I do not put pen to paper so to speak. As we have not built a place on the site called “DON’T Grab Your Group and GO”, there is no room for anything I am not enthusiastic about on our blog.
Now back to you… after you’ve done these two exercises sit for a moment and write down a list of the things in your life that you are most enthusiastic about. Then ask yourself – are you allocating time to the things you listed? If these are the things in your life that you are MOST ENTHUSIASTIC about, this is your clue as to how you should be spending MOST of your time. Grab your time and go spend it on the things that keep you enthused. In closing let me ask you two more questions: Who are you? And how do you spend your time?
If you ever get the opportunity to hear Dr. Gay speak, take it! There is a Ted talk on his website if you want to get a preview of his voice.
A Guide to Answering a Common Interview Question
Along with a few other questions — such as “what are your strengths and weaknesses,” and “where do you see yourself in five years” — the question “What motivates you?” is one of the most common interview questions job candidates receive. And it’s a tricky question , too, because it’s both open-ended and open to interpretation. How can you answer it in a winning way? That’s what this guide is all about. Here, we’ll explain why “What motivates you?” gets asked, how you can prepare for it and what you need to say to wow your interviewer.
Why Interviewers Ask “What Motivates You”
There are a lot of reasons a hiring manager or interviewer might ask this question , but you can count on at least two things they’re getting at — they want to know if your personality will fit the open position, and see if you know yourself well enough to explain what drives you.
When it comes to the former, a potential employer will try to see if your values — as well as the way you work and the incentives you like to receive — align with what they can offer in the job.
As for the latter, knowing yourself well is an indicator that you are a clear-headed, proactive, thoughtful person — the kind any company would gladly want to add to its team.
How to Prepare for “What Motivates You”
This is not an answer you want to wing. Ramble on, and you could turn a hiring manager off. But there are two easy steps you can take beforehand to knock this answer out of the park.
Do your research. First, read the job description and its requirements over and over . If you’re familiar with the job, then you can tailor your answer to better fit the position. For example, if the job description says that the employer is looking for a person that is “a self-starter and a resourceful problem solver,” then saying you’re motivated by the opportunity to be proactive and work independently in a position might sit well with the interviewer. It’s also worth researching the company’s mission and values to see if you can align your answer with them — for example, if you’re interviewing with a nonprofit, you might say that you’re motivated by the chance to make a difference in the world.
Prepare an anecdote. It’s one thing to say that you’re motivated by the chance to work as a problem-solver, but another entirely to share an anecdote about how your quick thinking saved the day during a previous work crisis. When you answer “what motivates you,” explaining your motivation as well as providing an example of that motivation at work is a winning combination.
How — and How Not — to Answer “What Motivates You”
Sometimes, the best way to answer a question well is to know which answers just don’t work. Really bad answers might include:
- “I’m looking for a big home, and the only way I can afford it is to make more money.”
- “I am motivated to perform so I don’t lose my job.”
- “I’m motivated by the idea of moving up the corporate ladder.”
Unfortunately, talking about personal, surface-level motivations doesn’t — excuse the pun — motivate an interviewer to hire you. On the contrary, it makes you sound as if you’re only showing up for the paycheck, and what kind of hiring manager is looking for that?
Instead, when you answer this question, you must connect what motivates you to the job or company itself, in order to highlight how you would be a beneficial addition to the team.
Sample Answers to “What Motivates You”
With all of this in mind, some good answers might be:
- “Working together as a team and contributing toward something greater than myself are my two biggest motivators. At this company in particular, I think I would be constantly motivated by the highly collaborative environment and your mission of bringing people closer together through technology.”
- “I’m motivated by the opportunity to identify challenges and help people overcome them — for example, at my last company I led an effort to evaluate and overhaul our onboarding process, which resulted in 20% higher satisfaction scores at 90-day check-ins across the entire company.”
- “What I find the most motivating is setting ambitious goals for my team and coaching my direct reports so that we can achieve them. In my current position, we set a target of booking $2 million in revenue during Q4, which we knew would be challenging, but doable as long as we continuously pushed ourselves. The feeling of coming together and hitting our quota with a week left in the quarter is something I’ll never forget!”
Most hiring managers are far more interested in a potential employee whose motivation is position- or company-centric versus the “feel good” answers some are compelled to give. Remember, authenticity is key!
Now that you know how to answer this question, here are some other articles to help you prepare for any interview you might have!
The question “What do you do?” has basically become synonymous with “Who are you?” There’s a reason it almost always follows “What’s your name?” in polite conversation: It’s helpful. It’s get-to-know-you shorthand. The one-word answer to “what do you do?” allows people categorize us and gives them a snapshot of what we do or who we are.
But there’s also a dark underbelly to introducing ourselves with this kind of shorthand: When labels go wrong, they can lead to stereotypes. Perception becomes more about the experiences accumulated by the people you’re talking to than anything that they may or may not know about you, personally.
You Say: I’m in sales.
They Think: You’re a pushy, sweet-talking charmer.
You Say: I’m a lawyer.
They Think: You’re the argumentative type.
You Say: I’m an accountant.
They Think: You’re a numbers geek.
Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but you get the picture; odds are, whatever quick description you’ve used in the past barely does what you do—or who you are—any justice. But everywhere from networking events to family gatherings, this question is going to live on. So you need to find a way to explain your job in a way that it makes for an energizing conversation starter, instead of a fast track to the pigeon-hole.
Here are seven ways to reframe this common question to help you come up with a more compelling answer. Experiment with different ones during conversations in the next couple weeks to see which allows you to represent yourself the best and build more meaningful relationships.
1. Talk About How You Help People
You might be, say, a copywriter. Or you might be someone who helps companies tell compelling stories about their brands. And doesn’t that sound infinitely more interesting? I’ve used this at dinner parties to great effect: It instantaneously removes stereotypes about your job title and explains the value you bring to the table. Start your next response with “I help people…” and see where the conversation takes you from there.
2. Tell an Anecdote About Your Job
Narrative is always compelling. It helps us make connections. A study out of Princeton University found that the brain activity of the storyteller and the listener actually begin to mirror each other, despite the fact that one person is talking and one is listening.
And best of all, to solve the “What do you do?” problem, you get to provide context for the person you’re talking to, instead of relying on the picture they have in their minds of what you do.
When implementing this strategy, you might have to use your job title as a segue, but transition immediately into a story about something that was fun or inspiring to you at work. For example, at a recent party I told someone I was a communications consultant, but then followed up with a story about a client that offered context for my work and illustrated the need in the market for what I do.
3. Make it a Teachable Moment
Think about your answer in this light: You are educating the other person on the subject of you. So instead of just saying your title, explain something he or she might not know about your work or industry. Talk about the void in the market that you are filling. Talk about the latest thing happening in your industry. Talk about the most interesting thing you’ve learned lately.
4. Be Vulnerable
Don’t be afraid to get personal and talk about your journey. What led you to where you are today? What are your dreams for the next phase of your career? Every conversation is building a relationship. To do this effectively, you need to let people behind the curtain, even just a little, so they understand where you are coming from.
5. Be Relevant
It’s not all about you, even when it is. Relay the details about you and your work that are relevant to the person you’re talking to. The client whose story I told at the party was also finishing up successful rehab after a car accident, and as I told it, I saw the cardiac rehab therapist’s face light up with recognition. Think about what experiences you have that will resonate with the people you’re talking to or be able to help them out in some way.
6. Let Your Freak Flag Fly
Find something about what you do that really lights you up, and focus on that. When you show how enthusiastic you are about something, you are a magnet. People actually really want to be around that. Don’t let anyone tell you to take a chill pill. Ever.
7. Be Self-Promotional
We need to rebrand self-promotion. We need more people who can speak frankly about the value they bring to the clients and organizations with which they work. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone just let down the veil and really opened about what they are good at? More people would be doing things they love. We would, collectively, be happier.
So, don’t be shy. You’re actually doing everyone a favor by being honest about what you’re good at and what lights you up. And you can plainly see how much better that is than saying “I’m an accountant” the next time someone asks.
“What do you do?” may forever be synonymous with “Who are you?” but with one of these alternative answers, you have a say in who you get to be in the mind of the person you’re talking with.
Today I’m going to show you some more creative ways to ask and answer “How are you?” in English. You’ll also like 28 Phrases to Feel Comfortable in English Conversations.
“How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
Do you find yourself saying these phrases again and again?
- How to ask “How are you?” in different ways
- How to answer “How are you?” in a creative way
How to ask “How are you?”
There are a lot of different ways of asking “How are you?”
But be careful! Some of these phrases don’t work if you’re in a formal situation, like talking to your boss or the Queen of Sweden.
So we’re going to look at two situations: informal and formal.
How to ask “How are you?” (informal)
- How’s everything?
- How’s it going?
- How are things?
- What’s up? — Around the year 2001, everyone, everywhere was saying this — thanks to this ad.
- How are you doing?
- What’s new? — This one is more common in American English, but because the whole world is becoming more and more Americanised, you’ll hear this in the UK, too.
- You all right? — This one is very, very British. In fact, if you say this to someone outside the UK, they might just look at you strangely. It’s also shortened to “All right?”
How to ask “How are you?” (formal or informal)
What about if you’re talking to your boss or the queen of Sweden?
In these situations, you might want to keep it relatively formal.
(These phrases are also OK in informal situations.)
- How have you been?
- How are things going?
- Are you well?
How to answer “How are you?”
Now, when someone asks “How are you?” (or “How’s it going?” or “Wassup?”), the classic response is “I’m fine, thanks.”
That was, like, our first ever English lesson, right?
But this can sound a little boring and dry.
So let’s mix it up a little!
Alternatives to “I’m fine”
- I’m good. — You can shorten this to “good” if you’re feeling relaxed. Or lazy. Although it’s used a lot in modern English, some people still consider this phrase (as an answer to “How are you?”) grammatically incorrect.
- Pretty good — This was actually the catchphrase of a popular American comedian. You can hear him say it in this clip. A lot. (Warning: you might want to hit him by the end of the clip. Prepare yourself.)
- I’m well. — Like with “I’m good,” you can shorten this to “well.”
Alternatives to “So-so”
But sometimes you don’t feel fine. Or well, or good. Sometimes you want to say that things are just … OK.
There’s also a classic response in this situation: “So-so.”
But again, it can sound a little boring or unimaginative.
So let’s look at some other responses:
- I’m OK.
- Not too bad.
- Same old, same old.
- Yeah, all right.
- I’m alive! — This one is a bit of a joke but can be fun in the right situation.
OK, so now you know some more interesting ways to ask and answer “How are you?”
For more useful English phrases you can use right away, check out 28 Phrases to Feel Comfortable in English Conversations.
Associate Professor of Language in Education, La Trobe University
Donna Starks does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
La Trobe University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations
“Where are you from?” is a question everyone is likely to be asked at some point in their lives. It’s also an increasingly common question as people live, study and work across the globe.
Our study looked at how 642 Australian adolescents from Queensland and Victoria respond to the question “where are you from?”, and why they respond as they do to help explain why this question can cause so much misunderstanding.
The answer lies in the different ways this question can be interpreted, the amount of information adolescents feel they want to provide, and why people think they are being asked the question in the first place.
There are four important factors that affect how young people responded.
Those four words have multiple layers of meaning. At one level, the question may have relatively little to do with physical location – it’s simply a way of starting a conversation (“wher’re you from mate?”).
For these people, a valid answer could include “Heaven on Earth”. Others see the question as a request for a location. For these people, a vague response such as “from the middle of nowhere” would not be satisfactory.
Even individuals who interpret the question as a request for a physical location may not think about location in the same way. Some people may zoom out (“I’m from down under”). Others may zoom in (“Bendigo, Calgully”).
Responses also depend on the context of the discussion:
In a different country, I would say ‘Australia’ if overseas.
They may also relate to one’s personal identity:
I would say Victoria. I don’t like to give away too much information about myself.
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – because I want to be known as a city kid and not a bogan.
Personal connections with place help convey a sense of belonging (“Australia, mate! Say it with enthusiasm as people know Australia is a great place”). One’s sense of belonging can be reinforced by adding Aussie slang or by shortening the name of the place in the typical Australian fashion (such as “Rocky” for Rockhampton).
Belonging can also be tied to language. In particular, the Aussie English accent (“Tasmania, because everyone asks about my Tassie accent”). A response that ties belonging to English can be quite unnerving for anyone who speaks a language other than English, or speaks English with an accent other than the Australian accent. They may feel like they don’t belong.
For some, place identity may also be associated with one’s broader family identity (“Australia because I was born in Australia and so were my parents” or “from Australia as seven generations have been from here”).
A response of this type can also be unsettling for new Australians who may voice this in their own responses to the “where are you from” question through a “but” statement as in “Australia, but parents from Malaysia”, or “I was born here, but I’m part Dutch”.
Family identity and appearance also play a role in how people answere questions about where they’re from. Photo by Roman Kraft/Unsplash , CC BY
Alternatively, others may present their dual identity with a more confident “with” statement (“I am Australian with Greek heritage”). You may want to listen out for these prepositions to help you understand how migrants position themselves as Australians.
Still others, when asked where they’re from, may not focus on the words but on the reason they have been asked the question. They may assume it’s because they look or speak differently:
Australia but my dad is from Hong Kong, hence the skin and hair colouring.
I say I have Papua New Guinean heritage but I am Australian, because people want an explanation about who I am.
This may be the reason many white Australians in Australia are not asked this question as frequently. One Australian adolescent in our study on place identity talked about the issue this way:
Australia because I was born here and as a white person I’m unlikely to be asked where I’m from “originally”.
Finally, individuals can interpret the “where from” question in temporally different ways. For some, the answer is timeless (“Australia!”). For others, it’s connected with memories and embraces the past (“Australia because I was born and raised here”).
A focus on the past may also cause new Australians to question their status as Australians. So perhaps, in the spirit of inclusion for migrants, children of migrants and minority groups, we need to think about how we respond to the “where are you from” question and think about a response that relates to the present: “Australia, because I live here, not because I was born here”.
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‘What do you do?’
Think about how many times you’ve been asked this question in one form or another.
It’s a whole lot , isn’t it?
Behind being asked your name, this is probably the most common question you hear.
Despite its frequency though, a great many people still don’t deal with this question well .
In fact, I commonly see people stumble and answer awkwardly or give such a rote/boring answer that it gives the other conversation participant nothing to move forward with.
. though, how you address this one little question can have large implications for the way people perceive you, positively or negatively, particularly in the early stages of an interaction.
What we’ll discuss here today is how to use ‘What do you do?’ to your advantage , so that you can leverage your answer to this question as a positive source of interest, intrigue, and conversation. in any interaction.
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I am just shocked (shocked!) that the Trump administration would defy a clearly written law and the legal opinion of their own attorneys
I repeat вЂ“ again вЂ“ the obvious: @SpeakerPelosi will *never* have a more-opportune time to re-establish Congress’s inherent contempt powers
And if any of @SpeakerPelosi’s staff happen to see this tweet, a reminder that the Congressional Research Service вЂ“ Congress’s own research team! based in the Library of Congress! вЂ“ has researched this issue extensively
Just needs good political timing
Taking Control of Your Life, Part 2, by Vicki Hinze
1/ Answer this question:
What do you want?
Almost all of the Road Runner cartoons are available via the @BoomerangToons app.
I subscribed for $5 & decided I’m gonna watch & tweet about ’em all in chronological order, even the later, terrible ones, for which I have an irrational affection.
Here we go.
Boomerang lists them alphabetically not chronologically so Chuck Jones masterpieces sit side-by-side with 1960s atrocities (& later ‘revival’ attempts.)
I am going to start at the beginning. I will also be including Wile E. Coyote/Bugs Bunny & Ralph Wolf/Sam Sheepdog shorts, FYI
September 17, 1949: “Fast And Furry-ous”
Chuck Jones intended this short to be a parody of cat & mouse “chase” cartoons. Instead, he accidentally created the definitive chase cartoon series of all time.
How have you been?
“How have you been?” is a common question from native English speakers. It’s asking what you have been up to and how life has been for you from from a certain point in time. Perhaps you’re being asked how you’ve been doing since the last time you saw each other. Or maybe since the last time you spoke on the phone. Or it could also be since the last time you sent each other private messages online.
You can see that it’s used in a similar way as “how are you?”However, your answer needs to be a little bit different.
When to Use the Question “How have you been?”
But before we talk about how to answer this question, let’s talk about when to use or when to ask this question. To begin, there are two things to remember:
First, only ask this question if you have met someone previously.
Second, only ask them if you have not seen one another for some time (like a week or longer).
Most importantly, this is not a question to ask someone you have just met, nor is it a question to ask someone you just saw yesterday. The question is actually focusing on the chunk of time that has passed since you saw that person.
|“How have you been?” is about the chunk of time that has passed since you saw that person.|
Short answers to answer the question
One way to answer this question is to give short or one-word answers. This is usually the case when you are in casual conversations. Native English speakers tend to answer this way when they are conversing with others. Here are some examples of the short answers:
“Never been better!”
“A little crazy actually!”
Longer answers to answer the question
But of course, there’s a longer way to answer this question. I mentioned earlier that it’s similar to answering the question “how are you?”. The difference is when you answer “how are you?”, you answer in present tense. Such as “I’m okay.” With “how have you been?”, on the other hand, you will be answering using the present perfect progressive tense. And this is done by using “I have been” plus the continuous verb form. Present perfect progressive tense describes an action that began some time in the past, continues in the present, and may possibly continue into the future. Here are some examples:
How have you been?
“I have been busy working.”
“I’ve been traveling quite a bit since we saw each other last Christmas.”
“Oh, I’ve been studying a little too hard. I need a break.”
How has he/she been?
“Gabby’s been practicing cooking quite a bit.”
“Well, he’s been spending a lot of time at the gym!”
“Drew has been helping out kids in the neighborhood.”
How to Sound More Fluent and Native-like when you Answer the Question “How have you been?
For example: “I’ve been busy working a lot, too much maybe. How about you? How have you been?”
For example: “I’ve been real busy starting up my own business, but it has been fun too. What have you been up to?“
You can also check out the video version of this tutoruial. Watch how to answer the question “How have you been?” in fluent English.
After watching this English tutorial, if you want to learn more advanced grammar, I recommend Past Conditional Grammar – How to Use Should Have Been, Could Have been, and Would Have Been in English.
Are you looking for a way to improve your English? Would you like to know when you’re making a mistake? Click here to get information on our complete English course, Fluent Communication, and learn when we will open it again for new students.
The STOP Bias initiative out of the Division of Student Affairs is hosting the second annual “Who Are You?” Postcard Project. The program invites students to submit anonymous statements that answer the question, “Who are you?” A display of these student expressions will be made available for public viewing in the Panasci Lounge of the Schine Student Center in April 2014.
The Postcard Project allows for students to define for themselves who they are as a way to bring to life the University’s community of diverse scholars, as well as emphasize the beauty of an inclusive campus.
Students and staff involved with the STOP Bias initiative will be tabling in the Schine and Goldstein Student Centers on the following days, so students can participate in the project by filling out a postcard.
- Goldstein Student Center on South Campus: Nov. 17 from 5-9 p.m.
- Schine Student Center: Nov. 19-21 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Students can also fill out a form through the orgsync online at https://orgsync.com/10755/forms/62457 or email [email protected] to ask about alternative methods to submit statements.
The STOP Bias initiative was created to provide the SU community with resources to help those who have been impacted by bias incidents on and around campus. The website, StopBias.syr.edu, includes information on how to identify bias, and ways in which community members can get involved with others and create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.
The “STOP” in “STOP Bias” reflects the important steps in eliminating acts of bias in the community: “Spot it. Talk about it. Open your mind. Prevent it.”
A key feature of the STOP Bias website is an anonymous web-based reporting tool that can be used by SU students, faculty and staff who have experienced or witnessed an act of bias. The tool collects information from the incident and offers the reporting person an opportunity to be contacted for further support, if they wish. To access the reporting tool, go to: https://publicdocs.maxient.com/incidentreport.php?SyracuseUnivBRI.
For more information on the “Who Are You” Postcard Project, contact Radell Roberts at [email protected]
Enjoy a slideshow of some of last year’s postcards:
This is a remarkably common question asked in interviews. The reason that it is remarkable is that it is actually illegal for the interviewer to ask this question. So given the fact that it is an illegal and quite personal question, how exactly do you respond to a potential new employer. This guide will provide you with the correct way to deal with such a question.
First of all it is important to figure out what the motive is behind the question. After all, it is quite possible that the interviewer mistakenly asked the question while merely trying to be friendly and actually help you to relax.
It is also possible that the interviewer is attracted to you and is attempting to see what obstacles they may face. This is an extremely inappropriate and unprofessional way for an interviewer to act and should not be tolerated.
The other possibility and probably most sinister is that the interviewer may be trying to get information about how committed a potential employee will be to the job. Many employees view newly married or married women in general as a bad investment, as they are likely to take maternity leave. Most employers usually prefer single people as their lack of commitments enables them to work longer hours and travel more.
So how exactly do you handle such a question should it arise? Well once you have determined the motive it is easier to know how to respond. After all, you don’t want to hurt your chances of getting the job.
- If you feel that it is merely a friendly question, then it is acceptable to give an answer as to whether or not you are married. There should be no repercussions as long as you give them an honest and polite answer.
- If the interviewer is making sexual advances towards you, alarm bells should start ringing and it is best to notify the recruitment agency of your concerns. In the meantime however, brush off the question with a generic response such as: “Don’t worry, my personal life is kept very separate from my work so it would never affect my performance on the job.”
- If the interviewer asks the question as a standard interview question, it may be that the interviewer does not realise it is an inappropriate question so you can remind them that they are actually asking an illegal question. Try something similar to this: “Are you aware that asking some questions during job interviews is actually illegal.” Remember to keep a positive attitude and merely point it out to them. If they are probing for information they will get the hint and back off. They might even feel that you are doing them a favour by preventing them from asking dangerous questions.
The key to this question really is to figure out the motive and stay positive. Once you know why they are asking the question, you will know how to respond. And if an interviewer makes you feel really uncomfortable then you can leave the interview. Would you really want to work for a company if you feel that uncomfortable at the interview anyway?
Almost always when we try to answer to the question “Who am I?”, we say about what we do or what we like, but how should we answering this question? If you can recommend me books or papers to at least try to understand the meaning of this question, I will preciate it.
5 Answers 5
I suggest reading at least a chapter or two of Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self (1989). He aims to “[trace] various strands of our modern notion of what it is to be a human agent, a person, or a self.” (3) On your “what we do”, see:
Much contemporary moral philosophy, particularly but not only in the English-speaking world, has given such a narrow focus to morality that some of the crucial connections I want to draw here are incomprehensible in its terms. This moral philosophy has tended to focus on what it is right to do rather than on what it is good to be, on defining the content of obligation rather than the nature of the good life; and it has no conceptual place left for a notion of the good as the object of our love or allegiance or, as Iris Murdoch portrayed it in her work, as the privileged focus of attention or will. This philosophy has accredited a cramped and truncated view of morality in a narrow sense as well as of the whole range of issues involved in the attempt to live the best possible life and this not only among professional philosophers, but with a wider public. (3)
On your “what we like”, Taylor goes on to talk about what he terms ‘strong evaluation’, which
involve[s] discriminations of right or wrong, better or worse, higher or lower, which are not rendered valid by our own desires, inclinations, or choices, but rather stand independent of these and offer standards by which they can be judged. (4)
Taylor spends the first part of Sources in critique of naturalism and reductionism; he contends they obscure our understanding of ourselves by depriving us of the ability to make important distinctions—chiefly, about what does and does not constitute a worthy life. Whether or not you agree with him, Taylor should help you see aspects of your question which lie in a blind spot of much modern, Western thinking.
For more, see Christian Smith’s What is a Person? (2010); from the introduction:
Yet it is not obvious that we humans actually do understand ourselves as beings very well. I am not the first to observe that, of the many mysteries in the universe, we humans are perhaps the most mysterious of all to ourselves. Even the social sciences, for all their sophistication in certain ways, have not helped us much to understand clearly the nature of our own species, humanity as such. Or so I believe. The social sciences are good at describing and analyzing human activities, cultures, institutions, social relations, and social structures. But that is not the same thing as actually understanding human beings per se, what we are, our constitution and condition. (1)
Note that Smith cites Sources sixteen times; he explicitly endorses Taylor’s stance on ‘strong evaluation’. Where Taylor picks out philosophical blind spots, Smith picks out sociological blind spots. The naturalist, of course, may claim that both are seeing what just isn’t there. If so, perhaps they explain in better terms than the naturalist, how they came to see whatever it is they see.
Don’t let this common interview question trip you up.
Whether you’re new to the workforce or have over 20 years of experience, “Tell me a little about yourself” is likely to be the first request asked of you in an interview. This is in part because it can be a nice icebreaker to get the interview started. It also provides the interviewer with a starting point that can allow for follow-up questions.
Regardless of why you’re being asked to spill the beans about who you are, you’re in the spotlight and need to be prepared to answer “Tell me about yourself” the “right” way to stand out among your competition. This is especially true when you consider that though the average interview length is 40 minutes, reports have shown that the interviewer knows if they will hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds. With that said, consider the following tips to prepare for being asked to “tell me about yourself” during a job interview.
Before you even get the chance to figure out how to answer ”Tell me about yourself,” the interviewer needs to sense you’re confident. The same report showed that interviewers made the determination not to hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds based on factors like bad posture (33 percent), a weak handshake (26 percent), and overall confidence (38 percent). Your goal is to answer with confidence, without being cocky, so you’ll hold the attention of the interviewer for the next 38 and a half minutes of the interview.
Be honest and be yourself
The most important thing in an interview is to be yourself, regardless of what you’re asked. Trying to give answers you think the interviewer wants to hear instead of what you truly think or who you really are will get you in trouble down the road. Job and cultural fit are essential to success in any position, so it’s better to know during the interview if you’re not thrilled with the company’s culture or if you and your potential manager’s personalities clash.
Focus on work-related accomplishments
The meat of your response in speaking about yourself should focus on your work-related accomplishments, education, training, and experience. Sharing some of your professional goals is also fair game.
Give a little personal history
It can be good to give a little personal history or insights into who you are when determining how to answer “Tell me about yourself, as long as you do it right. Sharing what inspired you to make the career choice you made is OK, for example. Something like “I grew up in a one-stoplight town in the middle of nowhere and decided to go to West Virginia University because it was close to home and a good option for me” or “I love to play golf in my spare time” are acceptable. This is especially true if you’ve done your research and know that the interviewer has similar interests and can relate — a bonus for you!
If you are new to the workforce, you may not have a choice but to use some scenarios that are more personal in nature, because you may not have many work stories or experiences to pull from. When I was interviewing for an internship in graduate school, I remember being asked something along the lines of “What’s one of the most difficult scenarios or challenges you’ve dealt with to date?” My answer? Marriage. It was the most honest answer I could give, and I explained why.
Even though I did have work experience, marriage was still the first thing that came to mind. I was able to make the answer work-related by sharing that marriage requires communication, compromise, teamwork, understanding, and more, all of which are requirements for success in the workplace. I received and accepted the offer and was later offered a full-time position.
As you can see from this example, showing that it’s OK to be yourself and share personal details if your intuition or gut guides you to do so, especially if you can find a way to relate it to the position for which you’re interviewing.
Don’t give too many personal details
Though it’s OK to share some personal details about yourself, it’s also important that you use good judgment and proceed with caution in your ”Tell me about yourself” answer. In most scenarios, you’ll want to steer clear of discussing sensitive topics like family, religious beliefs, and politics. These tend to raise red flags or stir up heated debates that are best to avoid. Whether we like it or not, people have biases, and you don’t want to be judged or lose a position because someone is concerned about your “personal” affairs or beliefs.
Do your research
For any interview, you want to do your homework about the company. You should do the same research on those who will be interviewing you if you can. If you have someone inside the company you can speak with, consider asking them some questions — this will give you some insight into what you and the interviewer might have in common that you could share about yourself in the interview. It could also give you an idea about the personality of the interviewer, so you can know if the interview will be “all business” or more relaxed and casual.
Consider what the interviewer wants to know
Attempt to think of this question from the interviewer’s point of view to help you craft a response. Interviewers are primarily listening to see if you have the experience to do the job, have the ability to learn, and would be a good fit for the work group and organization. This is why focusing on work-related accomplishments and being yourself is essential.
Avoid rambling and remain focused
For some, answering this question is like pulling teeth. For others, it’s fun getting to share and share and share some more! It’s best to find a happy medium. Consider ahead of time the highlights you’d like to cover when sharing about yourself and stay focused on those highlights during the interview. It’s good to provide your ”Tell me about yourself” answer in under a minute or two — only go longer if the interviewer has asked follow-up questions based on what you’ve shared.
Practice ahead of time
This point is the most common tip you’ll receive, but it’s still worth reiterating. Practicing and jotting down notes on what you plan to share with the interviewer is a great way to be more prepared during your interview, and, as a result, more at ease and relaxed. It’s helpful to practice out loud with someone you trust. Beware of sounding too rehearsed when you’re in the interview room, though.
Interviewing may be an inevitable part of the job search, but doesn’t need to be dreadful or painful. Think of them as opportunities for new doors to open and new experiences to be had. Instead of letting your nerves get the best of you during an interview, prepare yourself mentally to answer “Tell me about yourself” and consider the request as not only a great way for the interviewer to break the ice, but a great way for you to share who you are as well.
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Whether it’s your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife or some other label, that special someone (or someone’s) should know a thing or two about you, right? Here’s our list of 12 questions your partner should be able to answer, ranging from super important to kind of silly. You decide which are which!
We hope they can answer this question about you, especially if you are allergic to something(s)! From a mild animal allergy to a deadly peanut allergy, your partner should know what could affect your health.
A massage? 69? Doggy-style? A bowl of Cheerios? Whatever the answer may be, your partner should have some idea what gets you hot and bothered between the sheets!
Some of us are super close to our families. Others have created friend families of our own. However you define family, it’s important for your partner to have an idea of where you stand. It can help navigate the sometimes painful waters of holidays, or help build on already strong connections.
Come on, this is one of the first things you probably talked about on your first date! Knowing some of your favorite things means they’re paying attention, and care about what’s important to you.
This is a big one. Do you like PDA? Do you prefer your partner tell you how they feel? Show you through gifts? Spend time with you? However you like receiving affection, it’s important your partner knows!
This could be something silly, like clowns or spiders — but it could also be something deeper and serious, like illness or failure. The more your partner knows about what keeps you up at night, the more they can support you through the tough times.
Are you an adventurer, always on the go? A lover of museums? More of a beach bum? Planning trips can be stressful enough, so the more your partner understands your travel preferences, the smoother your trip may go. However, keep in mind, they have their own travel ideas, so a healthy balance is key!
Wine? Beer? Diet Coke? G&T? Gatorade? A well-timed drink can be just the thing to keep the party going, turn your frown upside down or help you unwind. If your partner knows your go-to drink order, they can be ready for your refill!
This is critical. Your partner must know the answer to this one, lest things get really ugly, really quickly.
This is a big one, especially if you live together. After all, if your partner doesn’t know the quirky things that can send you over the edge, how are they supposed to void them?
Even if you’re not a fan of karaoke, chances are you’ll end up somewhere, at least once, a few drinks too deep, with a microphone in hand. Your partner needs to know which song you’ll be able to belt out confidently, without needing to see the fuzzy words up on the screen.
Ok, sure, not everyone celebrates birthdays, but at the very least, it’s good for your partner to know your birthday (you know, for, like, emergency reasons). But really, they need to know. Because cake.
Do you think your partner can answer all these questions accurately? Can you answer these for them? Give it a try and see how much you actually know about each other!
My wonderful, handsome son died. I still love being asked the question.
I used to love it when people would ask how many children I have. I’d say “two” and then start talking — bragging, if you want to know the truth — about both of them.
But after my son Greg died two years ago at the age of 28, it suddenly became complicated. I’d say “two” and then talk about him and his older sister, and I noticed I was in tears at the end. And so was the listener.
No one warned me about this or told me what to say.
So I looked to others for advice.
A few months after Greg died, I took to dinner an older man and his wife who lost their daughter over 20 years ago. He was a facilitator in a grief support group at a church that I’d started going to for a while. I didn’t go to the group but he had a good reputation. I asked them what they say to people who ask how many children they have. They originally had two. Over wine, the wife told me with a twinkling smile that she answers they have one.
She told me that I’d know — it’s just easier.
I must have looked like I wasn’t following.
Then the husband tried to lighten things up — he said you could say he has one on Earth and one in heaven. But he agreed that they usually say “one” these days.
That was “expert” advice, which I realized even then that wasn’t right, at least for me — advice that I assume they’re still telling others. But I don’t criticize them if it helps them cope with their loss.
I looked online. One website written by a mother who lost a young son said she tells some people about her son who died but there are times that she holds her story secret and precious. She said that she worries that it brings conversations to an end.
I felt beaten down.
Getting the question
And then, without any warning, I got the question when I was at the grocery store.
I’d known the cashier lady for over a year, and we were always friendly. She saw that I was wearing a t-shirt with a college name on it — she asked me if that’s where I went to school.
“My daughter went there,” I said. “I’m so proud of her. She’s way smarter than me!”
She smiled as she was checking my groceries through.
Then she asked me how many children I have.
I kind of gasped. I noticed the line of people behind me. I looked at her. I was panicking inside. I don’t know if I showed it on the outside.
“Two,” I said. “My daughter and my son.”
There was a pause.
“My son died a few months ago at the age of 28.” I don’t know why I added that but I did. It felt right. “He was 6’3” and co-captain of the men’s swim team. I miss him so much.” I’m sure there were tears in my eyes. “Thank you for asking.”
David Doughty and his son Greg, in Whispering Pines, North Carolina, in 1997. (Photo: Family handout)
There was another pause.
She told me she was sorry. She didn’t look like she knew what to say either. She said she remembered seeing him there with me before.
“Yes, that was him.”
We looked at each other like we would talk later.
Driving home, I felt good for saying “two” and for mentioning Greg.
If I hadn’t said two, it would have felt like I was leaving him out of my family. I just couldn’t do that. And what would she wonder if she found out later it was really two instead of one?
Why I say ‘two’ — every time
The real test, though, is what you tell people who ask how many children you have, when you’re talking to strangers you’ll never see again. People ask when you least expect it.
That’s where my real love for Greg carries me through and allows me to say “two.”
And happily so. I feel like I have his hand on my back in those times, gently pushing me forward. And I see his smile with the dimples.
I have this fantasy that on my deathbed I’ll remember every time I said “two” instead of “one.” How does that older man and his wife at that church justify just saying “one”?
I say let them take it up with their daughter in the next world. I’ll know that I stood by Greg every single time. Because of my love for him.
David Doughty’s button with Greg on it, in Atlanta, Georgia, January 23, 2019. (Photo: Family handout)
People don’t need to worry that they’ll bring me down by mentioning Greg. I think about him all of the time. He had a way of making fun of me and taking me out of myself — and he had a lot to work with!
Unfortunately, firm numbers of how many parents have lost children are hard to come by — my own efforts to dig up those numbers with the help of various support groups and government agencies mostly came up empty — but it happens more frequently than many people might think. For instance, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that from 1992 to 2014, 11.5% of people over 50 years of age had lost a child.
I want to be asked about him
I often wear a button with Greg’s picture on it. It’s a little bigger than an inch. At my grief support group — a different one, not at that church — I met a woman who was looking at my button.
She asked me if I wore it everywhere — even to the grocery or gas station. She asked if people asked me about it.
I told her that’s the whole point of it. I want to be asked.
I noticed that politicians wear buttons with the American flag. I love being an American, but I love Greg more.
Back when I was still going to that church, I went to a lunch, and there was an older couple who were visiting and considering joining the church. They noticed my button. There was a pause — there’s always a pause when people see the button and I tell people. Then they told me about a daughter they had lost when she was two. They were holding back tears but also looked relieved to talk about it.
When people ask, “How many children do you have?” I always answer “two.” And then I start bragging. When I talk about him, he’s alive again.
David Doughty is an attorney and father in Atlanta.
Here are some interview tips that will help you nail this answer.
Talk about what excites you.
Your personal values and interests are part of what makes you unique, and talking about them is a great way of showing how your passions have shaped who you are both personally and professionally. Talking about what excites you is also a great way to humanize yourself in the interview and become more than just a resume. Plus, it’ll help the interviewer to remember you.
Show how you’ve made your passion a part of your life.
Whether you’re interested in animal rights or basketball, the passion itself is not as important as how you talk about it. Be specific and give the interviewer a sense of how that interest fits into your life. For example, if you’ve been an animal rights advocate for a long time and you volunteer at a shelter, explain how that experience has shaped you and what you’ve learned from it.
Say something like: “I’ve always loved animals and I had several dogs growing up. During my first semester of college, I started volunteering at the local animal shelter. I’m passionate about working with animals because so many pets end up abandoned and I want to help them find good homes.”
Pro Tip: Whatever your passion, make sure to clarify that devoting time to it won’t change the time and commitment you’re able to put into your work.
Show how your passions drive you to succeed.
Once you’ve established what your passions are and shown that you’re dedicated to them, talk about how those passions have driven you to succeed. This will show the interviewer that you’re able to use your personal interests to set goals and achieve them!
No matter what the passion, showing that you’re able to turn your interests into achievements is a great way to demonstrate long-term thinking and to show employers that you could help them meet their goals.
Say something like: “Volunteering has given me the chance to not only work with animals but to also learn about nonprofit organizations, which has given me hands-on experience of company operations and helped to shape my career goals.”
Answering “What are you passionate about?” is a great way of showing potential employers that there’s more to you than what they can see on a resume. In addition to showing that you’re a well-rounded person, it’s also a great way to prove that you’re able to set goals and achieve results based on those goals. Added bonus: You may find out you have some things in common with the interviewer!
Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Dress for a Job Interview at a Bank and find answers to common interview questions such as What Gets You Up in the Morning?
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If you have been searching for ways to answer nosy questions all of your life, let me help you. You canвЂ™t go too long of a time period without being bombarded with nosy questions from nosy people. It puts you on the spot and makes you feel awkward. Many times you feel forced into answering a question you really didnвЂ™t want to give the answer to. That doesnвЂ™t have to happen any longer because you will know the best ways to answer nosy questions
1. Turn It around
One of the best ways to answer nosy questions is to turn it back on them. For example, if someone asks you when you are going to have a baby, reply that you were just wondering the same thing about them. Chances are that they will be so shocked they will either forget all about their question to you, or they will realize their faux pas and be utterly embarrassed which serves them right. Either way you get out of answering the nosy question and come out looking rather ingenious. They arenвЂ™t likely to ask you a nosy question again.
2. Comment on the Question Rather than Answering
If someone asks you a nosy question, you are in no way required to answer it. Why not make the comment, вЂњIsnвЂ™t that an interesting question?вЂќ Or comment that they must have a lot of time on their hands to think up such intriguing question. They could come back at you with the question again but this should put off most that ask those nosy questions. If it doesnвЂ™t, you can try another one of these tactics.
3. Pass the Buck
One easy way to get out of answering a nosy question is to pass the buck. This means to refer the question on to someone in a better position to answer it or someone who you can blame for holding the answer to the question. For example, if you are asked when you will be getting a raise, you can answer by saying that is up to your boss. If someone asks when your boyfriend is going to pop the question, tell them that would be his decision. What can they really say at that point?
4. Pretend You DonвЂ™t Understand the Question
Feigning ignorance may be a trace dishonest but it will get you out of answering a nosy question. If someone asks you a nosy question that you donвЂ™t want to answer, just pretend that you donвЂ™t understand it. Act puzzled. Chances are, the person asking the question will be so amazed you donвЂ™t get the meaning of the question that they may give up getting an answer from you. Of course, they may talk about you not being intelligent to others but if it keeps them from being nosy about your life then it just may be worth it.
5. Join Them in the Question
Another way to tackle a nosy question is to join them in the question. When you have a nosy question thrown at you, look surprised and say that you have been wondering the exact same thing. This gets you off of the hook from answering and will probably embarrass them. That isnвЂ™t totally a bad thing. Perhaps it will break them from asking more nosy questions in the future.
6. Take the Honest Approach
There may be times when you want to take the honest approach and give them the answer to their nosy question. That is absolutely fine if you want to do that. It is also absolutely fine to answer their question by telling them that you find their question rather personal. You could also say that you find their question too nosy to dignify with an answer. If it is someone who rarely asks a question like that, I would not take that route. However, if it is someone that has asked you nosy questions many, many times, you certainly have the right to honestly tell them their questions cross the line.
7. Just DonвЂ™t
Just because you are asked a nosy question does not mean that you owe any kind of answer. While the above tactics can be very helpful, there is also nothing wrong with just stating that you are not going to answer the question. This direct approach can work wonders and stop any future nosy questions from being directed toward you. You could even be doing others a favor by handling it this way. You may well break the person who asks the nosy questions from asking anyone else those sorts of questions again.
There are many ways to handle a nosy question but you have to handle them the way that feels right to you. What ways have you found to be best to handle a question that is far too nosy? What has worked for you?
By Deborah Vieyra
You’ve answered the question of what fellowship you’d like to apply to. But to compete for the fellowship, the next question you have to answer is “why” – why this fellowship, why now, why you?
While you may know your personal reasons for pursuing a fellowship, these can sometimes be challenging to articulate to a committee who are on the other side of the decision-making process. It may be difficult to gauge what exactly a committee is looking for when they ask this question. You may have simply known that pursuing a fellowship was something you’ve wanted to do your whole life. How do you invite others in to this passion, while at the same time displaying a structured vision for your future?
When answering the question of why you are applying to a fellowship, it may help to begin by brainstorming the answer. This will help you find a clarity of vision, allowing you to understand what being awarded a fellowship will do for your career and personal trajectory. Sometimes the answers to these questions can only be found through constructive introspection, allowing you to bring to the fore your deeper reasons for wanting to follow a specific path.
While your reasons for deciding to apply for a fellowship are ultimately personal, there are certain key areas that may help you structure your answer to this question. Here are 3 “why’s” that are common among fellowship applicants.
Why #1: The quest for targeted skills and experience
Defining a “Big Picture” for yourself is your first step to answering the “why” question. By articulating a vision for your career or future academic life, it is easier to explain why you have decided to pursue a specific fellowship. Identify the skills and experiences you would gain from the fellowship that would directly help you achieve your professional and academic goals. If you can demonstrate that the fellowship is an integral part of a long-term goal, you will provide clarity in your vision that will also immediately set you apart from other applicants.
Why #2: Broadening your reach and amplifying what you are already doing
You may already be involved in work that is inspiring to both you and those around you. A fellowship can be an ideal way to take the work you are doing to another level, in terms of your expertise in the field you are in and in how far your work reaches. Whether you are currently in academia, the social impact sector, or have started your own company, fellowships’ opportunities for advancement and amplification are unparalleled. Let the fellowship committee know how the opportunity could enhance what you have already built and create a greater positive impact on the world.
Why #3: To move in a new direction that you are passionate about
There’s another great reason for pursuing a fellowship – the desire to change your current path towards something that you are passionate about. If this is your particular situation, be careful how you couch this change. Rather than express dissatisfaction with your current field, which will leave a negative imprint, can you demonstrate your passion for the new area you would like to pursue? Note that for a fellowship selection committee, it’s typically not enough to simply say that you want to change your career track – it’s important to show some current progress towards this career change through commitments like volunteer work and side projects.
Likewise, avoid statements that can be construed as a lack of focus, such as mentioning that you are not sure what you want to do long-term. Also steer clear of general statements such as, “It just sounds like a great opportunity!” Don’t tell the selection committee that you are applying because a fellowship will look good on your resume. Even though this is true, you may come off as opportunistic and lacking real interest in the fellowship’s mission.
At the heart of the question “why?” is your own personal journey. Defining why you are pursuing a particular fellowship not only strengthens your application, but also helps you get the most out of it once you are in it.
Deborah Vieyra is a Fulbright alumna from South Africa who completed her MA in Applied Theatre Arts at the University of Southern California. She now works as a writer, proofreader and performer in Vancouver, Canada.
© Victoria Johnson 2018, all rights reserved.
It may seem automatic but it’s part of the glue of your relationships.
Posted Oct 10, 2015
It probably won’t take you long to come up with the right answer to “What’s the most frequent question you’re ever asked?” If you’re stuck, though, put yourself in this situation: You’re stepping outside your door to get the mail and bump into your neighbor. What do you say, and what are you asked in return?
There’s no official data on this, but I’ll venture to guess that “How are you?” turns out to be the most common question you’re asked during an average day. If you’re not the one being asked, chances are you’re asking the question yourself pretty often. It’s not just people you meet or see in the course of your job or daily activities. Call a customer service line, and invariably the agent will ask “How are you today?” (even though you will never see this person or have another phone conversation). Given the thousands of calls that must come in on a daily basis to the average 800 number, it’s doubtful the person really wants to know the answer but is just reading from a script.
But you may also have come to feel like the question, and your response, are scripted. “How are you?” is inevitably followed by “Good (or fine), how are you?” You don’t even stop to think whether you’re really that good or not, nor does the person asking you the question really ponder your answer. You’re both exchanging common pleasantries that aren’t intended to carry real communicative meaning.
It would probably then take you by surprise if one of the people you asked replied, “I just found out my aunt passed away.” That might jolt you out of your conversational lethargy.
This question of how much to self-disclose when you’re asked a question about your internal state is one relationship researchers often pursue. After all, if you’re trying to deepen the quality of a relationship, you may be willing to take that plunge in which you share your inner feelings or experiences. The 36 questions that can deepen your relationship quiz was actually based on the idea that the more personal the question—the more self-disclosure it required—the deeper the connection it could make between you and a partner.
Research on self-disclosure consistently reinforces the point that you can promote intimacy by revealing your innermost feelings. Reflecting, perhaps, the increasing presence of social media in our daily lives, much of this research focuses on self-disclosure on Facebook, in texts, and emails—in other words, not in face to face (“F2F”) situations.
Perhaps the closest recent research on self-disclosure that can provide a guide comes from a study conducted by University of Haifa’s Nurit Tal-Or and Michal Hershman Shitrit (2015) on the liking of reality TV participants. The question Tal-Or and Hershman-Shitrit investigated was whether people would like media characters who self-disclosed a lot or a little about their inner states.
You might be able to relate to this study yourself: How do you feel when contestants in a dance or vocal competition tell the camera how they’re feeling? Chances are this is one of the hooks that keeps you involved in the show. Confirming this idea, Tal-Or and Hershman-Shitrit found that participants did like their reality show contestants to self-disclose, but they preferred the self-disclosure to evolve gradually.
In our F2F relationships, similarly, it seems that we prefer self-disclosure to occur as if you’re dipping your toe into cold water. Don’t take the plunge but instead go bit by bit. Returning to the frequently-asked question, then, it seems that to blurt out your innermost feelings would not be warranted when you’re greeting a relative stranger.
On the other hand, not enough self-disclosure can also be off-putting. An automatic “Good, how are you?” response that leaves our lips without prior contemplation may seem unduly superficial when offered to people we know well. It’s made that much worse by the fact that you’re returning the question with the same question. This exchange, which can take just a couple of seconds, does nothing to advance the connection you have with a person who shares some portion of your life.
It’s worth trying to find that Goldilocks balance between too much and not enough self-disclosure with your interaction partners during the day. Part of the equation is the closeness of your connection but your personality is also a factor: Highly extraverted people, for example, will have less difficulty sharing their inner states.
The closeness of your connection also plays a role. Obviously the woman in my example who talked about her husband’s death wasn’t very close to her interaction partner, which is what made her response so jarring. With someone you know very well, though, you might share the fact that you’re in a bad mood, that you’re having a bad day, or that you had an argument with your teenage child.
If it’s a person you’d like to know better, replace the auto-reply with something a bit deeper—”Well, things have been better” or “Really good, I’ve just had X [whatever that is] happen to me.” Don’t take the immediate plunge to the depths, but go farther than toe-level.
The main principle to keep in mind is to put some thought into it. The automaticity of the interaction makes it easy and mindless, but it’s also the mindlessness that makes it seem so impersonal and uncaring.
Asking and answering questions, is, after all, what keeps connections alive. Yours can become that much more lively and fulfilling, helping to boost your well-being and that of the people in your social world.
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Tal‐Or, N., & Hershman‐Shitrit, M. (2015). Self‐disclosure and the liking of participants in reality TV. Human Communication Research, 41(2), 245-267. doi:10.1111/hcre.12047
Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2015