The Question “How Are You?”

I think probably anyone with mood swings or depression or who has had a particularly crappy day can relate to this, one of my biggest pet peeves.

In today’s culture a very common greeting begins with, “hi, how are you?

The thing I find disturbing about this is that most of the time people say it, they don’t actually want to know how you are doing or feeling.

The most acceptable answers to this greeting are something along the lines of “good,” or “fine” or “great” whether one feels great or not. Answering with anything else (miserable, stressed, anxious, depressed) often leads to a very confused greeter.

For anyone who has answered truthfully to the question of “how are you?” and received that blank, icy stare in return… it can be easy to fall into a pattern of always answering “good” or “fine” whether they’re feeling it or not.

Personally, I think it would be a lot easier for people to share how they’re feeling (and if they’re not doing alright) if there were less trick questions like this one. 

The solution?

Let’s stop asking people how they’re doing unless we’re prepared to listen to whatever (honest) answer comes next. Maybe retail employees and acquaintances and distant co-workers should stick to greetings like, “what’s up?” or “good to see you,” or “did you watch the Walking Dead last night?”

3 responses to “The Question “How Are You?”

  1. 100% agree with this post! how are you? has become a longer version of a simple hello! when someone asks how are you…it never crosses my mind to actually TELL them how i am. yet we all throw out this vague question with no intent of being honestly curious about some one else’s well being..or listening!
    very interesting thanks!

  2. I love this and I think I’m going to do my best to start participating in your solution. I work in a pharmacy and it’s just habit for me to greet our patients/customers with a “hey, how ya doin?” Especially with me being in a pharmacy, most of the patients aren’t feeling so good, just coming from the doctor sick, but they still answer with “feeling okay,” just to avoid the awkward drawn out conversation that will follow if they give the truth. I think you’re very right about greeting people with a much more simpler hello. Thank you for this post!

  3. I consider that phrase to be one of the dirtiest in the English language. I make it exceedingly clear to 99% of people that they are not welcome to use it on me.

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