“Hi, how are you?” How AM I? Why don’t you sit down; this is going to take a while.

While I do appreciate the intended friendliness of it, I really dislike the common social convention of asking, “How are you?” in the casual, mindless, repetitive way most of us do. If you think about it, it’s actually sort of an important question for one human being to ask another and I don’t think we ought to be asking it when we don’t really want, or have time to hear a genuine answer. We cheapen it by the formulaic, near robotic way we ask it and respond to it. I find myself constantly forced by this question to either lie or create an awkward situation by answering truthfully. Of course I realize I will never succeed in eliminating this ubiquitous piece of conversational garbage from our collective repertoire, but I have to try. At the very least I want to stop personally participating in it. If you ask me this question as a greeting, here are some of the ways I may respond.

  1. Quote Monica from “Friends”: “Do you want me to cry? Is THAT what you want? Do you wanna SEE me CRY?!”
  2. Ask, “Compared to what?”
  3. A variation on the usual answer just adding one word to make it true – “Not well, and you?” (Probably wouldn’t even be noticed half the time.)
  4. Pretend I did not hear the question, just smile and say, “Hello.”
  5. Actually just start crying.

I have used most of these at one time or another . . . not always on purpose. Really, I think the best solution would be to replace the question with a statement – “Hello, I hope you are well today!” Cool, great, thanks for the high hopes and for not asking me a personal question that neither of us really wants to talk about right now while you are bagging my groceries (or whatever.) So I’m going to try to start saying something like that whenever I start, out of habit, to ask the question. Unless – and this could happen too – I really truly want you to tell me How You Are Doing Right Now, and I have time to listen.


About dahnajeen

I'm Donna Jean Hunter. I'm also Donna Cox - former married name and the name I share with my children and with my ex-husband, father of my children, and friend, David Cox. My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Patterson told me I was a great writer and would be an author when I grew up. She always had me read my stories to the class, and even took me around to the other classrooms to have me read to them. I'm pretty sure the other kids all hated me that year. I don't care though. I love Mrs. Patterson. Of course she did not know then about the Internet and blogging, how much of what people read would no longer be on paper - and how much of it would be done for free! - when I grew up. I have had 10 or 12 of my pieces published in college literary journals, and for a while during college, I actually received pay for working as a technical writer. Then for a few years I taught writing to teenagers as a high school English teacher. But other than that, I can't say I'm a writer in the sense that it is what I do for a living. But I am a writer. I have been all my life and can’t see myself ever stopping whether anyone reads it or not. I hope someone enjoys some of it.
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2 Responses to “Hi, how are you?” How AM I? Why don’t you sit down; this is going to take a while.

  1. S says:

    You are the kind oe writer that I love to read. Really…start a book. Don’t waste that beautiful mind.

  2. dahnajeen says:

    Wow that feels really good to hear (read.) Thank you so much – S?

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