The catch 22 of “how are you?”
How are you?
How are you? How many times a day are you asked this? How many times a day do you ask this of someone else?
Now… how many times a day is it genuinely asked?
When I’ve left the seclusion of my comfy hobbit hole running errands during the day, I probably get asked this question a dozen times-
- When I go inside a gas station (who does that anymore?!)
- When I enter a store
- When I’m shopping in the store
- When I check out at a store
- When I leave a store.
- If I run into a employee in the parking lot while leaving the store
- If I run into a friend or family member in a store
- At a restaurant
- At a bank
- At my kids schools
- From my neighbors
The point is you get asked “how are you?” so many times you probably don’t remember it all. Additionally, you get asked so many times you don’t even recall what or if you answered back. Our society has become so programmed to be automatically polite (well, 90% of us at least), we have taken the emotion and actual concern for someone’s well being out of the equation. Now, when the question is asked it is mostly just a generalized salutation spoken in passing instead of “hi” or in addition too, but isn’t honestly meant to be answered.
And why is that?
I feel people don’t really want an honest answer. I think they ask the question out of what I have termed “automatic politeness” and oftentimes regret the conversation the it leads too.
Just yesterday I witnessed this “automatic politeness”. On our way through the hospital to get my x-rays done. My husband and I passed another soldier he knew. The man said “hey chief! How ya doing?”. My husband replied “pretty good. And you?”.
No reply. Silence. He just kept walking. The guy didn’t hang around long enough to reply to my husband or even hear the reply to his own question. Instead, it was more like a gut reflex. You see someone you know and you want to express some sort of happy emotion in seeing them (otherwise you would just ignore them).
A common reply to “how are you?” is often:
- going good
- I’m good
- not to bad
Those replies are quick, short and sweet. They are straight to the point and are basically conversation enders. Those types of replies don’t leave much room for back and forth conversation unless those replies are followed by a another question; like “and you?”. However, what if you had just got some bad news or life was not really fine?
Tip: Most women know “fine” doesn’t really mean fine.
If I stood in front of a good friend or family member and said things were “fine”, they obviously know that’s a lie. Mostly likely it is because I really don’t lie. If things are going good, you’ll know. I use conversation as a form of therapy. So be forewarned, if you run into me and things aren’t going great; your gonna get a ear full.
But if things weren’t really “fine”, would you actually say it?