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Respond Beyond "Fine, Thanks"

Most of us are in the habit of answering "How are you?" with some variation of "I'm fine," especially when it comes to small talk with strangers. Yet Scott says that type of auto-response is often a conversation ender. Instead, she suggests answering with what's really on your mind—with a bit of editing to give the conversation somewhere to go. You could say something like, "I'm good. I'm trying to decide what color to paint my living room. I like what Kate's done here, but I'm not sure if it would work in my space. Got any ideas for me?" Or you could go in a different direction, with something like, "I'm okay. I think I made a mistake at work today, though, and, well, I'm a little worried about it." Maybe they'll say, "What happened?" And you could end up getting some great advice, or at least feel better after talking about it.