As a society we are completely divorced from the words we use. Words are filler to most of us. We ask people how they are without really thinking about what that question means.
It’s a rather deep question, isn’t it? If you think about what “How are you?” really asks. You are asking for a window into someone’s life. You’re asking for an emotional response, be it good, be it bad. You’re also asking for detail.
But that’s not how we use the question. In our society that question has no meaning. It’s a throwaway sentence.
We meet someone on the street, in a store, at the office, or even at a party and we ask “How are you?” all we want is a simple ‘fine’ or ‘good.’ We definitely do not want to hear that they are not alright. And we most certainly do not want an actual conversation.
If someone says they aren’t doing well, we immediately think “What a whiner!” But of course, they aren’t. After all, you asked.
And even if someone is doing well, so well that they launch into a story about how well they are doing we cannot wait for them to shut up. We cannot wait to unplug from actual human connection.
In some respects, I think this speaks to the thing I write most about on this blog – how we dehumanize other people. If it doesn’t immediately matter to us and our situation we do not want to hear about it. We want to do what we do and live in our own bubbles and not be bogged down with the knowledge of other people’s lives.
Our inner dialogue is ‘It’s not my responsibility to listen to them.’
And why look at it as a burden?
Why isn’t sharing with the rest of humanity a positive experience?
Oh right, because then you might have to think about someone other than yourself. What are you really losing by listening to someone else? What are you really losing by connecting with another human being?
I don’t think you lose anything. I think you gain a whole lot.
As a society, we are so afraid of the one thing we crave most – connection. We seek it out in unhealthy indulgences instead of finding it in the simplest and most accessible way – in the people around us.
So the next time you ask someone how they are, really mean it. Look them in the eye. Be genuine. Otherwise, don’t even bother asking the question.