It’s a commonly asked question that isn’t thought about very often. Let me raise a few questions.
- When you ask someone, “How are you?” Are you asking because you are seriously interested in knowing how their life and mental well-being is or are you asking because it is a societal expectation of you after saying hello?
- When someone asks you how you are, do you give them an honest answer or do you say “I’m good” or “I’m well” following it by asking how they are?
Working in customer service, and frankly, just being a social individual, this question can really lose it’s meaning. I am guilty of asking people when I don’t want to hear the honest answer. However, I am also guilty of saying “I’m well” because I know my audience isn’t looking for a detailed honest answer either (at least I don’t believe they are).
What is really on my mind is how often do you ask someone how they are, and you believe them? Do you truly believe your neighbor you saw this morning on the way to work is doing well? Or do you think maybe they have some things going on that they don’t necessarily think you want to hear about?
I once had a customer a few years ago that when I asked “How are you?” his response was “Oh ya know, I’m good, can’t complain because you don’t want to hear it anyways.” I was shocked for many reasons (a) he didn’t give me the typical answer and (b) he was completely right, I did not want to hear about his problems. How horrible is that? I asked but hoped he would lie to me!
So I raise this challenge. The next person YOU ask “how are you” too, hope for an honest answer, and if they give you one, then listen to it (don’t zone out and think about what you might eat that night). Some people just need to get things off their chest, and talking to someone can be very therapeutic. Next challenge, be honest with the next person who asks you how you are. Watch them feel uncomfortable and work through the unexpected situation. They might surprise you… they might actually want to know.
“The question should be, is it worth trying to do, not can it be done.” – Allard Lowenstein