Auto Response


Are you on auto response? Many of us are.

“How are you?” is met with “good” or “fine” even when things aren’t so good. A client responded this way while dealing with a painful kidney stone. He was most certainly not “good”, but it was his auto response. I wasn’t fooled by the verbal response and instead asked more specific questions based on the pallor of his skin and grimace on his face. Turns out he wasn’t good, and needed help.

This happens to be a physical example, but the danger of the incorrect auto response is important to be aware of in many cases. If you’re not careful in your relationships – as a manager, employee, coach, partner, parent, or friend –  the auto response and your reaction to it can make for confusing communication, misread cues, and stress.

What to do?

As the inquiring party –

  • Begin with a more specific question. “How are you?” and “how was your day/week/month?” is much more likely to get you a short, non-specific auto response than questions like “what did you learn most from recently?” or “what’s been the most challenging part of the week?” or “what was the most rewarding part of the week?”
  • Listen carefully. Listen to more than the words. Tone and body language all play into communicating. Try to understand how the words and the body language combine into what the person is really saying
  • Ask clarifying questions. If you’re not clear and have the question mark balloon floating above your head, ask another question

On the receiving side of the questions –

  • Dial back your auto response. Sure, there are the folks in the elevator that say “how are you?” and don’t expect (or want) a response other than “good”. But getting what you need and want from communicating means getting more specific in your answer to people that care

Have you talked in an auto response (or responses!) lately?

What tactics will you try to keep your conversations more real and less on autopilot?

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