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Many people wonder why these questions are asked, and there are many answers. It is pretty interesting because there are many nuances in the English language that can be overlooked.
A question about how you slept is usually an innocent one. It usually warrants no more than an acknowledgment, with a simple "Good. How about you?" Unless, of course, someone wants to cause you to harm by suggesting you've been sleeping all day.
Below are potential ways to answer this question.
I think it's worth analyzing in what context the question has been asked. For example, you may be staying in a hotel, and the proprietor is genuinely interested in how you slept so he can evaluate the comfort of his rooms.
“You could answer, not so well. The room was very close to the road, and the traffic noise kept me awake through the night, or I woke early due to traffic noise. Maybe you could change my room tonight.”
A perfect answer that makes someone aware there is a problem with the room.
However, there are times that it's just not correct or proper to give such an answer.
If you were staying with a friend and they ask how you sleep, you may say I slept sound, the bed was very comfortable, but in reality, you don't sleep a wink and can't wait to jump into your bed for a good night's rest.
A simple quick response to continuing conversion is to always add another question at the end.
Question: “How did you sleep?”
Answer: "Good. How about you?"
That's an interesting question, and I suppose it can be construed as a greeting depending on who is asking the question.
If you have been in a situation where maybe you have been on a conference with work colleagues, how could your sleep be used to greet someone or as a way of opening a conversation if you are not cut off dead with a fast response?
How did you sleep is an open question that invites or elicits a longer reply than yes or no, a clever strategy if you want to start a conversation about another topic.
There are many responses, such as I slept soundly, meaning you had a good night's sleep. I spelled like a baby, meaning you slept well.
How are you is a generic greeting and just needs a short response such as “great, how about you.”
A short reply is sufficient to “how's it” you could say “perfect”, or “just fine thank you”.
We have all said it and will continue to say it. If you are in any doubt of how to respond to this question, then a simple:
“fine, thank you, how about you” will be sufficient.
For most of us, there is no need to elaborate on the soothing decor of the room, the soft sheets, and the sumptuous bed. No one cares!
Being polite is an essential way of life for many of us if we all take being polite so seriously.
Greeting someone with how you sleep is a form of politeness and should be revered in many ways as society moves from being polite to downright aggressive and rude.
If we lose the politeness of asking such questions about how did you sleep, our whole communication system could fall into chaos and disarray if not careful.
In some areas, we can witness the dissolution of politeness every day. How many times are we greeted with a glance in the opposite direction or an unintelligible grunt of sorts?
Let's go back to the very basics. If you are paranoid enough to read something into a person asking how you sleep, you may have a problem, or your surroundings are intimidating.
You could determine the question of a personal nature if you are sleeping with your partner, and then ‘fine” would be an appropriate reply.
Nuances and context plus inflection can change how we interpret specific questions. For example, imagine you are at a presentation and give a muffled yearn, which a senior colleague sees.
The senior colleague asks if you slept well, not to be polite but to say wake up and pay attention sarcastically.
Has politeness gone out of the window? No, not really, but in this type of situation, being uncivil can be prevalent. Over 98% of Harvard graduates have reported being treated uncivilly in the workplace.
That's a staggering statistic on two counts, one that civility is slipping us by and the second that it's ever reported.
One can only assume the information is gathered as part of a survey, and Harvard graduates have more backbone than to be worried by an event like this.
Studies show that workplaces prefer to employ people who perform better in the day than their counterparts whose performance increases through the day.
You could consider that waking early has nothing to do with the time you go to bed, and for some of us is genetic. How did sleep translate into whether you are awake and ready to perform if this is the case?
If this is genetic, a large proportion of us is at a disadvantage due to our genetics, which is unfair that we do not perform best during the early hours of the working day.
Who would have thought this polite phrase has so many meanings when used in different situations and could be used against us in the workplace.
Being polite is an essential part of being civil, and continuing to ask “how did you sleep” should be part of everyone's life.