What Would Barbara Do: How can I answer the question 'How are you?' in a friendly way without taking the chat off topic?

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I like to answer the question "how are you?" with "I'm excellent, thanks! Any Olark questions I can answer?"

It's a simple, human question. "How are you?"  ...and pretty necessary when you're doing something like live chat. But "how are you?" can also be a bit of a bottomless pit.

“How are you?” isn’t a bad way to start a conversation, really. It's a simple, human question that could also be read as "I'd like to connect with you as one human being to another". Which is pretty sweet, right?

But "how are you?" can also be a bit of a bottomless pit. We can talk about how we feel, how our day is going, how hungry/not hungry we are, etc., etc. Your support chat can go from a simple "how do I ..." to an hour long discussion about everything other than the site you support. 

So, how should you respond? Let’s break down my standard answer:

"I'm excellent, thanks! Any Olark questions I can answer?"

Why do I say I'm excellent? I’ve found that to some people, "I'm good" means something is wrong. Which invites a whole other discussion about why I'm only good when no, I'm GOOD! I'm excellent, in fact. So let's just go with that. :)

The thanks is pretty straightforward — it’s nice that they're interested in how I'm doing. In my regular life, I would follow this with the return question — "and how are you?" It was really hard for me to stop replying with this in chat, because, I mean, I do care about how they’re doing. I want to hear that they are also doing excellently. But that's as far as I really want to go with it, and there's a good chance that it won't stop there. So we're just going to leave that off.

And with the pleasantries nicely handled we can move on to the real reason I'm here to chat. Any Olark questions I can answer? Let's get right into it! And hopefully stay on topic....

 Got a chat question you want answered? Ask away!

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Barbara Maniar

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Barbara is part of the support team at Olark and she loves to chat. When she's not talking with all y'all she's chasing around her 2 kids, having mild success at craft projects and trying to schedule in a nap.