by Debbie Monterrey,

I’m on a quest but I don’t expect much success. My mission: getting myself and others to stop asking “How are you?”

After all, “How are you?” has become synonymous with saying, “Hello” or “Good morning.” But it’s NOT the same and elicits mostly insincere or incomplete answers because the person asking is really just saying hello and doesn’t want to be cornered at the coffee pot listening to a compendium of complaints or comments from the other person.

The question should, in my opinion, be reserved for those times you run into someone you haven’t seen in awhile. For example, you’re walking through the library and you see a friend who used to be in your book club but haven’t seen in months.

“Oh my gosh, how ARE you?” you exclaim.

“I’m great! It’s good to see you. The twins went off to college and Bob quit his practice…[details].”

“Really? [fill in my details] Well, it is so great to run into you. We need to get lunch soon and catch up!”

THAT is an appropriate use of asking, “How are you?”

Another appropriate use of it is when someone seems upset and you ask, “How are you?” with every intention of listening to the answer and maybe helping resolve any issues brought up.

Here’s an example of where it ISN’T appropriate, in my opinion. As a casual greeting in the workplace.

I work in a friendly place where we all say hello to each other and for the most part, treat each other kindly. But with so many people working here, asking each and every person you pass in the hallway in the course of the day “how are you” gets cumbersome and the answers are almost always insincere.

Say I’m having a really bad morning. I didn’t get much sleep, I’ve been up since 3 a.m., I got bad news from the doctor, my kid is having issues, I’m overwhelmed with a project or I’m just really not in a good mood. I head to the kitchen for coffee.

Co-worker #1: Good morning! How are you?

Me: I’m…good. Fine. (I want to be honest, but does he really want me bringing him down or detaining him? No.) How are you?

Co-worker #1: Great!

Co-worker #2: Hey, you guys! How are you?

Co-worker #1: Great!

Me: Great. (Forcing a smile)

Co-worker #3: Hi, how are you?

Co-worker #2: Good, how are you?

And so it goes as I pass 25 more people over the course of 30 minutes. How are you how are you how are you how are you? Fine, good, great, good, wonderful. Blah blah blah.

So ingrained is this habit in most of us that even I, the person asking you to stop, still succumb to it often.

Saying, “Good morning” or “Hello” is just as friendly without asking anyone to fake any emotions or pretend everything is rainbows and sunshine when it’s really a “hide in your cubicle” day.

“Hello” or “Good morning” also helps YOU avoid feigning interest (because you did ask) as a co-worker goes on and on about a medical condition or a tedious relationship situation you really don’t care about.

How are you, with this suggestion? I really am interested in knowing.


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