When we were doing work on our house after we first moved in, we had an electrician who would stop by nearly every day. Each time I'd see him and ask him how he was, he'd respond in the most enthusiastic, sincere way. "Couldn't be better!" or "I'm fantastic, thanks!" It always put me in a good mood to see him.
After the electrical wiring was finished and he wasn't coming around any longer, I missed his animated presence, which got me thinking about how I come across to others. When people ask how I'm doing, my response is more along the lines of "hanging in there." And sure, we're all busy and dealing with our own daily stressors, but I now realize it's not necessary to allude to that. One of my favorite quotes from Mindy Kaling's book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, touches on this exact sentiment:
"I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn't conversation. It'll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say, "Wow Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake."
I'm certainly not pressuring myself to be perpetually cheerful, but our electrician's upbeat disposition made me realize that my response can have a profound impact on another person's day. I've been trying it lately and I've got to say, it actually works. It's gone as far as shaping the tone of entire conversations, and the simple positive response steers people away from the usual complaints of busy-ness (let's face it, if someone comes across as happy and carefree, the other person is less likely to go into full Debbie Downer mode). I'm a total convert and this small fix has garnered hugely satisfying results.