“How Are You?” is a simple greeting for many of us. How often do we ask this question and actually wait for an answer? And how often do we answer this question and actually tell the truth?
The greeting of, “Hello, how are you?” can garner a variety of responses. For some people, their answer is “Ah, I can’t complain.” That response could mean that things are going relatively well compared to the worst that could happen, and that you are grateful when you compare your current situation to things that someone else is going through. But can you honestly say that you don’t utter words of discontent or think about the dissatisfaction you have with certain areas of your life?
How about this response: “Same stuff, different day.” (I substituted “stuff” for another word.) This person has accepted their dissatisfaction with their circumstances and a depresssing point of view all around. A person who has settled for mediocre, or accepted a sub-par (?) lifestyle/existence.
Now on the flip side, too often, we use the “How are you?” as a surface-level greeting and pass by without taking time to listen for the answer. Do we really care what’s going on in another person’s life, or how that person is feeling at that moment that we see them? We let those words roll off our lips and have no idea what is going on with that person. It’s a routine, cordial acknowledgement. They may have a real need to get something off their chest, but think you don’t have the time to listen.
The next time you greet a person you haven’t seen in a while, try taking an extra minute or two to stop and talk with them, and see if you can decipher their answer and read between the lines. Take the example of where a person responds with, “Oh, I’m just hangin’ in there.” This sounds like person who is struggling with something and feeling weary. Can you be an encourager, or maybe even lend an ear to listen without chiming in with a “me-too” response? If you take the time and act like you care, the person may be able to get something off their chest, who knows– they may feel better afterward.
You can make someone’s day by taking a few moments to just listen. The next time you ask or answer the question, “How are you [doing]?” or “How’ve you been?,” try to make it more meaningful and see what happens.