Stop asking ‘How are you?’ as a greeting

By Audrey Patterson | Reporter

We should stop asking “How are you?” as a greeting.

I don’t like that it makes me feel fake, because sometimes I’ll lie and say I’m having a great day to spare the other person an awkward encounter when I really could be dealing with a bug infestation in my apartment, three projects due the next week and no sleep.

When passing by fellow sorority members or casual friends, they might ask, “How are you?” with a smile. But oftentimes, both parties are focused on getting to their class, never slow their stride and keep walking before receiving an answer. This occurs more than I’d like to admit, and I’ve noticed this personal question has been twisted into a statement. It’s become the “Hello” or “Good morning.”

This greeting is second nature for most of us and falls from our lips before we even have time to consider whether a seemingly innocent greeting is helpful or hurtful. People who take your order in the drive-thru and random acquaintances don’t really care about your emotions and well-being. It creates social pressure to say, “I’m fine,” even if you’re not. This small question ends up making you feel fake and worse in the end because you’re forcing a smile.

It’s also a reminder that you’re not fine, because when you pause to think of how to answer and settle on a lie, you’re now thinking about all the things that are wrong in your life.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think it is necessary to check in on your friends and loved ones, but for acquaintances to appease a misguided social norm, I believe this phrase should be nixed.

I’m guilty of it, too. I cringe inwardly every time I say the phrase, because I sometimes use it in situations where I don’t really know someone and need to fill the awkward silence. It feels like a societal obligation to ask the question, but it’s not genuine and forces you to wear a mask.

If you have the time to slow down and hear the response to the question, I think we should all try to be more honest. Let’s not settle with “Fine” or “I’m doing great” if that’s not true. And if you don’t care enough about that person, find another greeting like “Have a good day.” Don’t ask a question if you don’t want to hear an honest response or feel inconvenienced by it.