Today I called a French colleague and made her tell me about the weather where she was before we could get on with my real reason to call.
Earlier, I spoke to another colleague in Dubai and we talked about the snow. On another call with a team in South Africa they told me how hot it was there today.
Sometimes I feel like I should have “Is the sun shining in San Jose today?” as a keyboard short code for my instant messenger.
Believe it or not, I’m not actually conducting a survey of the weather across the world. I’ve realised that what I’m actually doing (in what may be a peculiarly British way) is trying to gauge the mood and enthusiasm of my conversational partner. It’s a warm up to the real conversation.
If they come in with a powerful “The sun is shining, the birds are singing and flowers are blooming” I know it’s going to be a fun conversation. They’re in a good mood, positive and receptive to new ideas.
A conversation that begins with a terse reply “It’s too hot!” means I may need to bring my energy level down. The person needs to be approached with more caution.
My American colleagues would probably ask the more direct “How are you?” rather than trying to decipher through meteorological clues. But in Britain, we sometimes feel that may be too personal. We don’t want to pry into the personal lives of people we don’t know.
Also, people are conditioned to answer “How’s it going?” in a certain way. They’ll have a stock response. “How’s the weather?” is a much better barometer to gauge how someone really feels, not just how they want to tell you they feel.
How do you like to start a conversation? Is it peculiarly British? Do you really care what the weather is like? Let me know in the comments below.