“How are you?” is such a simple question. It is a question that most of us both inquire and answer every day. In fact, this question is rather reflexive for most: we use it as a greeting, a formality, even a habit. And, quite often, we answer this question in a similar manner. We partake in “how are you” exchanges so many times a day that we don’t even realize how often we use it. In a sense, we we’ve become desensitized, and as a result, we do not pay attention what we say and hear on a daily basis.
Take a moment and think about how many times you have heard that one little question just today. How many times have you asked this question, and how did you go about doing so? Was it a form of hello or a quick exchange? And how intentionally was it asked? Did you listen to the answer? If you have been asked “how are you?” today, what was your reply?
I am willing to bet that these exchanges were positive, impersonal, and brief. Perhaps you cannot even recall the specifics of such interactions. It seems that we often don’t listen to the answers people supply to this question, nor do we expect to hear an answer that is substantial or boldly honest.
So what would like it be like, then, if someone asked, “how ARE you?” How would you feel if someone took the time to investigate exactly how you are holding up? What might it be like for you if someone expressed a genuine interest in your feelings, your well-being, the current events of your life? What might you think if someone would not accept a “fine, thanks” for an answer and insisted that you must have something more to say, and they would like to hear more about it. Of course, it is a social norm to keep our inquiries and disclosures short and sweet, but wouldn’t it be nice if we took the time to show a more genuine concern and curiosity for one another’s well-being? Wouldn’t it be nice if we created more opportunities to invite others to engage in such a way?
It is my hope for you that you have people in your life that will take part that will take part in this meaningful exchange, for it implies that you are fortunate enough to have sincerity in your life. It illustrates the consideration, concern, and lovingkindness that you have with your loved ones. It demonstrates care, and that assumptions, formalities, and cover-ups are not being made, and that you feel invited and secure enough to talk about your experiences.
Today, I encourage you to ask “how are you?” in a different way. Seek out a real answer and really consider what you hear. Take a bit of time to show your friends how much you care, how much they are loved. Break your own habits and dare to tell someone how you really are. Give someone a chance to lend you an ear. If you can, connect in this way, and I think you will be surprised by what you hear and learn about your loved ones, as well as what you share about yourself.