Hi. How are you?
Most of us are guilty of starting off 98% of our conversations with this superficial and meaningless phrase. Not to imply that we don’t genuinely care about how our fellow survivors are carrying on, only to point out that our ardent greetings might not be as sincere as we think. This common phrase is banal, one-dimensional, and leads us to a monotonous cycle that is difficult to escape.
Why do we even start with this opener? Often, we run into acquaintances that we don’t know much about, and are simply comfortable with pleasant small-talk. If you don’t know the person well-enough to ask a specific question, why not ask how they are feeling?
Let’s face it. The phrase, “How are you?” is a fall-back. We use it when we cannot quickly think of a more personal question and do not want to make the situation awkward by pausing too long.
Think about the last few times you greeted a friend with this common phrase. Now think of the variety of responses.
Were their answers “Fine,” “Tired,” or “Good”?
Frequently, when you ask a dull question such as “How are you?”, you are given an equally boring answer.
As the person senses that you are just asking the question to get the conversation started or to avoid awkward pauses, they answer in the same fashion. This will often leave each person scrambling to think of any personal connections they might have, stuttering, offsetting time, and worsening the situation.
What should we do instead?
Now that we can actively avoid using the phrase, “How are you?”, what is the next step? How do we start conversations?
There are many ways in which a person might start a conversation without this phrase. The key to getting communication rolling is too keep a cheery attitude. Individuals are much more likely to be responsive if the speaker is enthusiastic and in a good mood. People will open up, simplifying the situation by giving you much to talk about. The rest will be a breeze.
What do you do, then, when a friend asks you this question?
Obviously, you won’t want to point it out or make them feel badly. You were in their position until now! When they ask you, give an unexpected or enthusiastic response, breaking the cycle. “Wonderful!”, “Terrific!”, “I’m so excited for ‘The Hobbit’ to come out in theaters!” These are all acceptable answers that veer away from the oh-so-common ‘fines’.
DO NOT repeat the question back to them.
Instead, change the subject into something relatable and leave room to breath. As you would not like to be left in a situation in which you didn’t know how to respond, nor does your friend.
Eventually the cycle will end and your hard work will be paid off! No more awkward pauses or panic attacks trying to find a common interest. You will have rid yourself and your peers of the horrid phrase and moved onto a higher plane of understanding. Okay. Not really. But small-talk, for the most part, will come much easier to you.