💮 How are you?

I have come to hate this phrase as a greeting. 😡


As I wrote about recently, I have been struggling lately with mental health challenges. This has made me more aware than ever of how often people ask a deep and probing personal question as a greeting with no thought or consideration behind it. It is an easy question to throw out, and at times an impossible one to answer.

Here are some examples of these deeply intimate and personal questions masquerading as greetings:

  • How are you?
  • How’s it going?
  • How have you been?
  • How you doing?

Even if the person you are greeting is not suffering in some way, although nearly everyone is, asking a personal question as a greeting is uncouth. Our socially-acceptable response is a lie, followed by an equally thoughtless question.

How’s it going?

Fine. How are you?

Good.

Good.

If someone ever stops and truly answers the greeting question, you are taken aback. Even more so if the answer is not shallow and positive.

One major problem I have with these greetings is the implied level of intimacy. Who are you to ask me how I’m doing? I don’t care about you enough to give you those details! I don’t want to tell you what my life is like right now. And I sure as heckfire don’t want to have to lie to you and tell you that I’m doing well, or even fine. I am not fine! And it’s none of your business!

In my more calm moments, I have come up with a solution that I find elegant and simple. I merely sidestep the question.

How are you?

Hey, it’s good to see you!

This has many benefits. First off, I don’t have to confront the dilemma of divulging too many personal details or telling an outright lie. Secondly, I am more direct and honest. In nearly all cases, I really am glad to see the person, I just don’t want to have an intimate conversation. Finally, it’s an extremely low-effort sifting process. Those who actually care how I’m doing will appreciate my sincere words, and will return to the question they consciously intended to ask. Those who don’t care won’t even notice. To them, I exchanged one socially-acceptable greeting for another.

Eventually, this question won’t bother me so much. When that day comes, I pray that I will remember how much it did bother me so I can be compassionate to others who are suffering. Until then, I will continue my sidestep enough that it will come with practiced ease.