You can develop an optimistic attitude and manner by practising positive speech and actions all day.  

You can develop an optimistic attitude and manner by practising positive speech and actions all day.  

Ask Better Questions

In Australia, like many other countries, on meeting or passing someone, people routinely ask a question, “How are you?”

The answer, more often than not, is the double negative “not too bad.”

Usually, it’s ignored.  The conversation moves on or the people walk past each other without exchanging another question.

Think about what you ask people when you greet them.  Think about the answer you use.

As an experiment, next time you are in a position to interact with someone with a greeting, why don’t you try replacing “How are you” with “What’s the best thing happening for you?” or whatever similar question feels natural.

Another experiment?  If someone asks you, “How are you?”, pause… and respond with something like “Thank you for asking, life’s good and I am working on a very interesting….”

I am willing to bet that an answer like that will cause them to pause and ask you a very good question creating better engagement and, perhaps, making a new ally.

Recently I shared this advice with a group of students at the University of Melbourne.  One of the students kindly messaged me with “With mum, I asked her what the best thing was to happen to her today and she absolutely loved it. Has been a very refreshing technique to use indeed. She has taken it back to XXXX Law School where she works and is finding it quite powerful to stimulate more meaningful conversations with her colleagues.”

This is an extract from Victor Perton’s new book, “Optimism: The How and Why” available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle.


  • Victor Perton

    Chief Optimism Officer

    The Centre for Optimism

    I ask people what makes them optimistic.

    The purpose? To help everyone and anyone become more optimistic and to add to their CV “I am a realistic and infectiously optimistic leader.” My underpinning beliefs are “The leader looks like the person in your mirror” & “All good leadership is optimistic.” I am the author of “Optimism: The How and Why” and “The Case for Optimism: The Optimist's Voices”. I am the Founder and Editor of “The Australian Leadership Project” ( I am an author, speaker, compère, moderator, barrister and researcher. In prison, schools, universities, boards, corporates, NGOs, conferences and retreats I have shared the learnings from “The Case for Optimism" & The Australian Leadership Project. I am available to moderate roundtables and retreats, deliver keynote speeches and conference panels and one-to-one coaching. For the right causes, we undertake CEO & board searches with optimistic leadership as the sought-after quality. My life experience includes stints as Commissioner to the Americas, 18 years a parliamentarian, practice as a barrister, mediator, arbitrator, businessman and board service. I was Senior Engagement Adviser in the Australian G20 presidency supporting Australian leadership of the G20 Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors & in the Brisbane G20 Leaders Summit described by the Prime Minister as "the most important gathering Australia has ever hosted."