February 17, 2004

"How have you been?" and "What have you been up to?"

POST #    771

Often times when you don't talk to someone for a long time, one of the first questions asked is either, "How have you been?" or "What have you been up to?" My standard response is, "not much," which always seems right when I say it, but I guess in reality, it's not true at all. It's just the canned response that I give. It's like when I'm on the phone and someone asks "How are you?" and my standard response is "Good, how are you?" I guess it makes my greetings seem kind of fake, but it's a response that is second nature and not intended to deflect the question.

I also feel like when people ask me questions like that, I don't really have anything new to report; that my life, in general, is pretty mundane. It may not be, but it just seems like it is to me. There are developments in my life, but if it's a slow progression over time, it doesn't feel like a big thing to report. It's kind of like when I have friends visit me in New York. They always want to "experience the city" and do "typical, exciting" New York things. While there are plenty of things in New York that are exciting and that you can only experience here, they just seem ordinary to me. Sure, that means I'm probably taking things for granted, but to me living here is normal, so unless something is blow-me-out-of-the-water exciting, it's typical New York to me.

Just like my life, while I think I do some fun things, most of the stuff is just normal to me. Hanging out with friends, going out to eat, and chillin'.

Posted by tien mao in Random at 8:45 AM



my conversations are slightly more condensed "what's up?" "not much, not much" - which is usually more or less untrue, but true in the sense that i'm not doing the New York City Thing, whatever that is. compared to other places i've lived, my life is very similar, but with a louder, dirtier, more exciting backdrop.

Posted by: janelle at February 17, 2004 8:52 AM

I've actually taken to responding to the "How have you been?" question by saying "Outstanding!" It tends to make people much happier when they hear that response, and then you get a little excited about telling them how things really are in your life.

Of course, I should note that I never use the "How have you been?" question as I prefer to go with "Hey, how you doin'?"

Posted by: joe at February 17, 2004 9:37 AM

oh yeah, i forgot about the "what's up?" and "not much" response. that's pretty standard for me as well.

joe, you seem to be taking a more positive spin on things than me.

Posted by: tien at February 17, 2004 11:41 AM

You're so right about the canned response thing, I'm guilty of it too. It's so bad that one time I can remember saying "good, how are you?" on the phone without even being asked "how are you?" - I'm just so used to that question and the standard response, I said it anyway!

So Tien, how have you been? Just kidding!

Posted by: Justin at February 17, 2004 11:45 AM

the worst i've been on the phone goes like this:
me: "hey how's it going?"
them: "good, how are you?"
me: "not too bad, you?"

yikes. i think i've only done it a few times though.

Posted by: tien at February 17, 2004 12:08 PM

I don't think you are taking things for granted by seeing that things here are ordinary. It's just that the expectations people who doesn't live here have of New York is so over the top. It's a another place to live and work that just so happens to have everything to be louder in every sense.

Posted by: Keith at February 17, 2004 1:56 PM

I've been known to engage in the following pleasantry now and again, just to keep things fresh:

Friend: How ya doin' this morning?
Oscar: Go fuck yourself, will ya?
Friend: Ooh, a little testy aren't we?
Oscar: Nah, I'm alright, how about you?

I find that this cuts way down on mindless prattle after awhile, and my colleagues and I just sort of grimace a half smile at each other as we pass in the hall without saying a word. You'd never even know I was born and raised in California.

On the phone is different. I usually answer with, "What the hell do you want from me now?" and sometimes just, "Don't ever call here again."

Okay, well maybe I don't exactly say those things, but I would if I hadn't been taught to think before I speak. I guess that's civilization for you. Come to think of it, I guess "How ya doin" and "I'm doin' alright, you?" are really just a civilized shorthand for "GFY!"

Doesn't that make it better already? Now I'm going to enjoy greeting everyone tomorrow morning!

Posted by: Oscar at February 17, 2004 10:28 PM

One of the issues in my co-ops board elections is that some doormen say "hey, how are you?" when they call to announce guests...

Do you do this: vary the greeting/response conversation between people, but always have the same greeting/response for any particular person? I find that happens all the time with my colleagues at work.

Posted by: joe s at February 17, 2004 11:02 PM

oscar, you seem to have quite a way with people.

joe, why would the doorman say that? shouldn't they just say "so and so is here?" i think i'm the same response for all people. it just varies from time to time.

Posted by: tien at February 18, 2004 8:42 AM

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