Retiring the Question “How Are You?”

sloth-in-class_o_2156663A few days ago I noticed a link getting shared by multiple people on Facebook. Usually when I see more than one friend share a link, even if it’s about something I care nothing about–“Sloth Raises Really Fast Human Child!” (okay, fine, I’d read that for sure)–I’ll read it.

So I skimmed the article. It seemed like something that only applied to married people, so I ended up clicking on the sidebar article “Scientists Discover the Truth About Revenge Sex” instead, and I forgot about the original article.

But people kept linking to it over the next few days, so I went back and read it again. I’m really glad I did, because the post isn’t really about “The Questions That Will Save Your Relationships,” as the title indicates. It’s about conversations and connection. (Which, of course, also relate back to relationships.)

The key part of the article is the idea that we ask the wrong questions all the time. Because we’re lazy conversationalists with really bad habits. Here are the types of “conversation starters” the article addresses:

  • How are you?
  • How’s it going?
  • What’s up with you?
  • How was your day?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these questions. When we ask them, we mean well. We’re trying to show that we care.

But there’s a big disconnect between our intentions and the results. As the article says so well, “[You’re] asking the same damn empty questions you’ve always asked that elicit the same damn empty answers you’ve always gotten.”

So let’s stop asking those questions and start asking good ones. Specific ones. I mean, really, why do we use the same generic questions for every person we know? Every person is different, so why are we using the same exact question for everyone?

Here’s what I’m going to do, and I suggest you give it a try too: The next time I’m about to say, “How are you?” I’m going to ask the person something specific I know about them. Even if it’s really casual and low key–not every conversation has to be some big serious thing. But I’m going to treat that person as an individual by asking them something about them, not some generic question I could ask anyone. I’m going to show that I care about them specifically through the way I approach conversation with them, even if it’s just a few quick words.

What do you think about this idea? Is it worth pursuing?