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Sunday, June 06, 2010

How are you?

It's a conversation starter, primarily. It also doubles for the: "I haven't talked to you for a really long time, and I'm making up for the neglect by getting you to talk about yourself." Another way it is used is when people feel they ought to talk to you, but don't know you and so have very little to talk about. Asking someone how they are not only helps put the trouble of conversation-making on the other person, but gives you conversation options once the person's done trying to explain their state of being. Also, the question is used as another form of "hello", which ought be answered with "good thanks".

When people ask me this question, I often give them a blank stare while I try to collect my thoughts, or I'll look into space, trying to analyse just how I am. People get a little weirded out by this at times.
I reckon the question's covertly difficult, for the following reasons:

a) Even if it were possible to explain to someone just how you were, it's hard to know how much you should tell the inquirer about yourself, and whether or not they actually want to know how you are, or are just being polite.
b) The two-second response time you have to examine your physical/emotional/psychological state seems like too little time to decide just how you are. After all, not many people even think about how they are at many points during the day; and if they do, the definition of how they are quite likely isn't the kind of thing they want to go trying to explain to someone they don't know.
c) It seems that one's actual state of being can be so complicated - even if by just little, un-analysed feelings, that it is too elusive to be put into thoughts, let alone be explained to someone else.
d) It's such an awkward conversation starter, since no one is as interested to hear about you as they are to talk about themselves.

How are you: Do you find it hard to answer?

- Lydie


Blogger The Editrix said...

I just have "Good, thanks!" as my stock answer. Unimaginative, but. . . honestly, how are you supposed to answer this question? You're right, it's a very difficult, very silly question to ask someone (though I can't say I'm not guilty of ever having done it myself).


9:52 am  
Blogger Siminy said...

It is a bit if an interesting question, that's for sure. Most seem to take it as one of those formalities that come with society.

But every now and then, you get that one person, who upon hearing those four words 'Hello, how are you?'suddenly lights up with interest, a small joy coming into the depths of their eyes. As if you have truly made their day altogether better by being interested in them.

It's kinda worth saying it a million times over to see it.


1:55 pm  
Anonymous FR said...

Yes, a very tricky question, usually answered with "Good, thanks" without even thinking. But today...

...I'm tired. You? How are you today?

3:31 pm  
Blogger Theresa said...

Yeah, but sometimes people actually want to know how you are. Believe it.
There have been times however, when I've REALLY hoped people wouldn't say that to me, coz I'd probably burst into tears or start complaining about stuff.

10:31 pm  
Blogger Lydz said...

Elise - it really is difficult. There's that expectant pause when people are waiting for you to answer - and you have no idea what to tell them. And yes, I've certainly inflicted it on a lot of people. :)

Siminy - yes! lots of people actually love getting asked it! And they have plenty to say as well.. hm. I should pay more attention to people's expressions after I ask them how they are. Do you think a lot of people must just be relieved to talk about how they're feeling?

FR - you just made me chuckle. How am I? Let me think. Slightly anxious about an upcoming exam, slightly tired. Interested in these comments that people write.. What about you, O Faithful One?

Theresa - yes, you're right. I can't be condemnatory of all people who ask that question.. Still, it doesn't make the question any less easy to answer. And do you think people sometimes want too know how you are - but they want a palatable version, they don't want you to tell them what's really wrong?

11:13 pm  
Anonymous FR said...

"O Faithful One" - I'm laughing!! Nice one:)
Do you really want to know? If you care to, I'm less tired, thank you. And relieved, I did a test today and glad it's over (hope you can say the same of your exam?). And happy, I just spoke to a friend who lives half way around the world and I laughed a lot. Other than that, my feelings are largely un-analysed:) Like you mentioned under c).

7:28 pm  

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