“How are you today? (Wait… did I just say that? Now’s a bad time to chat. Neither of us are interested in having a conversation) See you later.”
Does this narrative sound familiar?
What I meant to say was, “hello”
Today the question “how are you?” is a meaningless greeting that reflects the sad state of our immature communication skills.
What happened to saying “hello?” Asking “how are you?” should imply you wil look a co-worker, friend or acquaintance in the eyes and listen to them. If you don’t care how they’re doing, or don’t have the time to listen, don’t say “how are you?” say hello.
If you don’t care how the person you’re greeting is doing, you should. For one, as humans, our well-being is collective. Two, learning to care for others is a fundamental human trait which seems to be absent from our day-to-day lives. Three, improving our individual relationships is core to resolving the challenges we face as a global community.
We’re more concerned with our toys, social media stats and other meaningless status symbols we’ve come to worship. There are more reasons why you should care about co-workers, friends and acquaintances but I’d need to write an essay to cover them.
Over the next week, bring awareness to how often you ask someone “how are you?” Bring attention to your thoughts and feelings at the time. Figure out if you’re interested or open to a response. When the time is right ask someone how they’re doing sincerely. Listen and be there for them, enjoy experiencing this fundamental human interaction. As you get more comfortable in these moments, your ability to be present and compassionate will blossom and you’ll empower others to communicate their emotions.
When we show each other compassion, sincerity and honesty, amazing things happen. These are essential to our mental health and well-being. Practice conscious and sincere communication in your life and we’ll enjoy the benefits together.