That’s kind of a loaded question. We throw this question out at people we are passing in the hall and don’t anticipate and answer beyond, “I’m good.” What do you do if the person actually stops and gives you an extended answer?
Are you panicking in your head? OMG! Do they really think I care? Did they think I asked that question to get, like, a real answer? HOLY CRAP!
Or do you listen and find out what is going on in their life and make a mental note to never ask how they are ever again?
The real question I have is why do we ask if we truly don’t want to know? I get that it’s polite. It’s a form of greeting, but so is “Hi”. Hi doesn’t require thought or a follow-up answer. It’s simply a way of saying, “I see you. I am acknowledging your existence, but asking nothing of you.”
And why do you ask this question while you are walking away? You are headed towards a meeting or appointment when you see an acquaintance so you toss out, “How are you?” as you continue to walk. Clearly, you aren’t engaged enough to care for more than a single word response, but why even ask?
In polite societies, it is considered an ice-breaker. It’s a way to initiate a conversation with another person. The problem is what do you say next. You toss out the “How are you,” which is followed by, “I’m good. How are you?” Now what? Do you attempt to further the conversation or stare at each other awkwardly until one of you says, “Good, good, glad to hear it. I…um…have to go…now.” And you bolt for the nearest door.
How do you know when this is a genuine question or just an extended “Hey”? You don’t. Not until you answer the question with more information than wanted and get stared at like you have spinach in your teeth.
There are some clues that they may not want to actually talk with you:
* if they are still walking when they ask the question, they really don’t want an answer with more than one syllable.
* if they look at you like your hair is on fire when you attempt to answer said question with more than said amount of syllables.
* they continue walking as you are talking without further acknowledgment of your existence.
* one eyebrow crawls up their forehead as they look at you in bewilderment. (This would be a great opportunity to take a picture. This face cracks me up.)
My favorite is when I answer the “How are you?” question with…”WHY?! WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD?”
This will stop them in their tracks because now…NOW…they want to know every little juicy tidbit they may have missed out on. I never give any follow-up information, typically because there is none, but it’s fun watching them squirm.
So, the next time you see me and want to acknowledge me but have no time to chat, just say “Hi.” We can catch up some other time over a delicious cup of coffee.
Call me so we can set a date.
***Thank you to the awesome Rachel C. for the topic of today’s blog.***