How Are You? | Teen Ink

How Are You?

March 20, 2013
By Katy Ma BRONZE, Warrington, Pennsylvania
Katy Ma BRONZE, Warrington, Pennsylvania
2 articles 12 photos 6 comments

So your acquaintance asks, “How are you?” and to relieve them of the burden of an extended reply you say, simply, “Good”. In response, perhaps they nod their head slowly or smile appropriately and toss in a lighthearted laugh. And without another word the conversation is shifted abruptly to an unrelated matter.

You think nothing of it.

The question feels trite to both the questioner and the respondent, but yet we continue to use this crutch day after day, year after year in a monotonous drone of polite monologue. It’s tired, predictable, and frankly, boring. This conversation starter has pervaded our exchanges with one another long enough and urgently needs reconsideration. What was originally a question with the genuine intention of finding out how another person is feeling has deteriorated into an easy ‘fix’ for our lack of creativity when greeting each other.

For the questioner, it’s an automatic slur of a question triggered by wanting to express our manners and kindness or by just not knowing what else to say. Word vomit. Before we even begin to observe the person we’re interacting with, the damage has been done. They say “I’m good, thanks” or another polite but predictable answer and in less than a second you’re back at square one: shifting your feet or adjusting the buttons on your sweater, mustering up the courage to begin a new conversation. Hey the weather’s nice today isn’t it?

As the respondent an agglomeration of potential reactions run through your thoughts. Well actually, I have 3 exams tomorrow and I’m about to blow my brains out... But we settle for “good” because it’s concise and saves us the trouble of rummaging through our vocabulary to find a suitable term. We fear that revealing how we really feel will make us seem weak, dramatic, or too personal. And if in reality we’re not doing “good”, we figure it’s casual enough to slip as a white lie and those never hurt anybody. But just muttering “good” won’t be convincing enough, so to really sell it, we flash a smile until they nod and smile back. Mission accomplished.

So what if it’s a little insincere? It’s the norm in our culture; everyone does it and it’s polite behavior...

However, it is precisely that. The use of this exchange has plagued our society to the point where we’ve become dependent. No longer does it serve its purpose to find out how someone is doing, but has become a reflex we resort to out of mindlessness. And in turn, “good” as reply has lost any meaning at all. Does good mean you’re doing well or you figure it’s a safe alternative to something more authentic? The vagueness in this answer eliminates any potential for an emotional connection with the person you’re conversing with; if they don’t understand how you’re feeling how can they relate to you? How can you expect them to relate to you? And besides, you’re more interesting than that.

As the inventors of language itself, we have the unchallenged power to eliminate language that no longer serves a purpose. With some bravery, a little conscious effort, and even just a smidge of creativity, we can begin to reverse the damage and actually start to reconnect with others on a basic, human level.

Lets put our brains into it people.

The author's comments:
My AP Lang teacher asked us to write about words or phrases that bother us. I chose 'How are you?' because it is used commonly. Too commonly for comfort.

Similar Articles


This article has 1 comment.

Georgeybob said...
on Mar. 25 2013 at 9:38 pm
What an interesting essay! The structure and wittiness complement each other nicely, for the piece is both brilliant yet humorous. Marvellously crafted to poke light-hearted fun at human folly, yet the essay also resonates on a deeper chord of understanding: How do we make our conversations more interesting? And deeper, how do we become more INTERESTING people? And EVEN deeper, how do we overcome our unwillingness to share emotion?