“How are you?” Simple question…or not?

Such a simple question, but do you ever find it difficult to answer?  I do and so I wanted to share my musings on this.
Generally when I see someone I know they will ask “How are you?”  Depending on how I am feeling at the time can really make a difference to how this question impacts me. Now if I’m asked by a good/close friend I’m usually happy to be honest about how I am feeling, but what about people we don’t know so well or in situations where there isn’t much time or it wouldn’t be appropriate to go into detail?  I find this type of situation challenging, because I hate not being honest, and I don’t like how I feel uncomfortable in these situations.  And yes I have totally hidden from people in public places to avoid this.
It occurred to me that whilst I sometimes find “How are you?” difficult to answer, I still go around saying it to other people. So maybe this is the place to start.  What could we say to other people when we greet them to start a conversation?
“How are you?” is a simple question on the surface, but is the asker really open and reception to the true answer from the person they ask it of? Do we realise that it might be difficult for someone to answer?

“I see you”

A lovely man called Nick Haines I met a few years ago shared with me an African greeting that I really loved.  When people meet they look into each other’s eyes and say “I see you” and the other person says “I am here.” 
I thought this was really beautiful, a true honouring of each other’s presence in the moment.   I think we might be a way off using this in the UK, but I thought of a couple of ways to incorporate this into our lives.
  • When you meet someone instead of straight away asking “How are you? experiment with saying  “It’s good to see you”
  • Look at yourself in the mirror each morning and say to yourself “I see you”
  • Though it might be strange to greet in the street this way, could we greet the people we live with in the morning, or when we get back from our busy days
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please feel free to comment.  And if you would like to read the article I found about this greeting you can do so here.

6 Responses

  • Excellent reading Lisa, so true when you greet “How are you” & you or they will answer “great” or something else. The answer depends how things are going in your life. Older people are more honest & go on to tell about their aches & pains & who has died, family etc. Working people just say “I am great ” as they are too busy with their life to stop & chat. Others want to brag about their accomplishments. To use “I see you” here in UK may come across as psycho although used in the right contexts is beautiful. Culture is important but you must be comfortable in your greeting & most of all give thought on others situation. I use your comment at times “it’s good to see you”. I think going forward, I will use it more as your article has giving me thought & mindful towards the person that I greet & what may be going on in their lives. Thank you

    • Thank you you Bridie, good to hear from you 🙂 I’m glad my blog has provided food for thought. I can identify with all the things you say about the different types of people you meet and how they react. As humans connection is so important to our emotional health and I think considering the openings to our greetings with people is a good place to really connect. Thank you for reading my blog.

  • This is so relevant to me right now Lisa.
    Well meaning friends drop me texts when we haven’t seen each other in a little while and that one line “how are you” or “how’s things” I just stare at my phone thinking that I don’t have enough hours in the day to pour out my grief, anger and sadness-and would they really want to witness the darkness in my heart and head right now?
    I’ve started to say “good to see you” as a greeting and response as it’s more honest and authentic.
    Your thoughts and empathy are spot on as ever Lisa. Thank you for your newsletters and blogs xxx

    • Thank you Maggie for your comment and for taking the time to read my newsletters and blogs. Language is SO powerful and taking a moment to really choose I words can make such a big difference. The world needs more honesty and for people to be comfortable with this. Love to you all xx

  • Hi Lisa

    I read your article last night and I am guilty of asking this all the time. So I took action today and said to 3 different people good to see you instead and it felt much nicer, friendlier and I felt good too. Different.

    Interesting read

    • Great to hear that you have been trying out this different way of greeting people and that you are noticing it feels more friendly and left you feeling good. Like you I always asked people “How are you?” or “I hope you are ok”, but it was only when I realised how I didn’t always like being asked this myself that I actually thought about it. The starting line of e-mails I’m still working on so any ideas with that let me know 🙂

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