Thoughts on “How are you?”

We use it everyday as a pretty standard greeting. If I ask, “How are you?” you say, “Good thanks. How are you?” then I say, “Doin’ well” then we continue a conversation or walk away from each other. Of course there are more and less awkward variations of this that we all have experienced, but the point is that “How are you” has become a transaction. I ask, you reciprocate, that’s the expectation, and if you don’t you’re rude. But if you respond with anything that deviates significantly from “I’m fine,” that’s too much information.

The things is “How are you?” can be a deeply personal question. Everyone has a mask they wear in public to hide whatever it is they are going through, or what they have been feeling, especially if things have not been going so well. By transactionizing “How are you?” we miss out on some really extraordinary opportunities to connect with people.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask “How are you?” anymore, I just think we should try to be a bit more intentional about it. It shouldn’t be thrown out there with the expectation of reciprocation. If you ask someone how they are doing, genuinely care about the answer and show them you care.

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