“Hey, how are you?” he said while walking by.
“Pretty goo-” I began to reply, only to realize that he was long past me and couldn’t hear a word I said.
Has it ever occurred to you how ridiculous it is that people ask questions when they really don’t want answers? “How are you?” is a great example of this. When you think about it, what is the point of this question?
Perhaps the purpose is to express an interest in the other person or to show that you care about them. But if this is the case, then why is it so often asked while passing on the sidewalk or in crowded places where the person cannot actually respond?
Or perhaps “How are you?” is merely a greeting and is not truly a question requiring an answer. But in this case, it seems to me that there are better ways to greet others without asking an answer-less question.
Which brings me to my next thought: How are you supposed to answer that question anyway? The standard response to “How are you?” is usually “pretty good.” However, I’m quite certain that your entire state of being cannot be summed up in only a word or two. And what if you’re not actually doing “pretty good”?
But I guess when it comes down to it, people don’t usually care if you give an honest response, nor do they wish to hear your entire life story.
Just once I would like to stop someone who asks “How are you?” in passing and start rambling on and on about everything, just to see their reaction. Perhaps I would even make up a few things for dramatic effect. I wonder how someone would respond if I told them how my cat just got run over and how I’m failing all of my classes and how I just found out that Kevin left the Backstreet Boys. How’s that instead of a “pretty good”?
Overall, I think that asking people how they are when you don’t care is rather pointless and awkward. Why not come up with better ways to greet each other that would show that you actually care and even make the other person’s day a little better?
For example, why don’t we start greeting each other with “My, you are so good looking!” or “I wish I were as cool as you!”
I hypothesize that if we replaced our mindless questions with positive compliments, everyone would be much happier. Plus, you wouldn’t have to wonder if the person actually wants an honest response or if they’re just throwing out questions while they walk by.
So please, next time you pass someone, don’t ask “How are you?” and then walk on by. Try telling them how (hot) they are and see what kind of a response you get then.
Kendra Moll is a junior majoring in psychology and religion. She may be contacted and told how you are doing at firstname.lastname@example.org.