How many times a day do you think you’re asked the question, “How are you?”
Maybe you’re asked this while checking out at the grocery store, walking into work, or getting on the bus. Maybe you’re asked this while picking up your kid from school, talking with a coworker, or walking into your yoga class. In the span of a day, you’re likely asked this by a friend, your manager at work, and your next-door neighbor. We hear this question so often throughout the day. Both in quick and casual interactions, as well as in more meaningful interactions with people we know well.
It might seem like a simple question. And you probably think your answer doesn’t matter. But it does. In fact, how you answer this question has the power to dramatically change your relationships, deepen your friendships, and help you feel more connected to the people around you. Check out the video below for why the question, “How are you?” matters so much. I promise, this video’s worth watching!
I’d estimate that you get asked the question, “How are you?” at least ten times a day. And I’m going to bet, that nearly 95 percent of the time, you answer this question the same way. “Good.” “Fine.” Or “Ok.”
And here’s the issue. This question is an opportunity for connection. Whether it’s a brief connection, at the store or at the gym, or a more significant connection, with a new friend or a coworker. This question is an opportunity for connection. And most of us are completely missing it.
When it comes to connection, vulnerability is key. Vulnerability is the root of connection. In order to develop relationships and make connections with others, you have to be willing to give a little bit of yourself. You have to willing to take a small risk in being more authentic. You have to practice being more transparent.
And answering the question, “How are you?” a little more authentically is the perfect place to start.
Now let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean that you should tell strangers your deepest darkest secret. That’s not vulnerability. That’s weird and inappropriate, and it’s not healthy for relationships. But you do need to take risks in showing a little more than what’s on the surface.
When someone asks, “Hey, how are you?” and you answer, “Good, fine, or ok,” you’re literally telling the other person nothing about you. You’re not giving them any information about your experience. You’re not being transparent about your emotions. You’re not giving a clue about how you’re really doing. And that, is a missed opportunity for connection.
So it’s time to make a change. It’s time to do things differently. When you get asked the question, “How are you?” I want you to answer with something other than “Good,” “fine,” or “ok.” I want you to think of giving the person a little bit of truth in your answer.
How much you share is dependent on the relationship you have with the person. So how you answer this question to a cashier will be different than how you answer this question to a coworker or close friend. How vulnerable you are, how much you share, is dependent on the closeness of the relationship.
Let’s look at an example. Say it’s Monday afternoon, and you’ve already had a bit of a rough day. The day isn’t awful, but it’s had its challenges. Let’s think about how you could answer the question, “How are you?” in a couple different situations.
To the woman who’s ringing you up at grocery store, you might say, “I’m hanging in there. It’s Monday, you know?” You might say that with a smile or a dose of lighthearted humor. My guess is that she’ll say “Oh I hear you. But we’ve got this, right?” returning the smile. This exchange isn’t much, but it’s a moment of brief human connection.
Now let’s imagine one of your work friends asks you this question. Y’all are closer, so it makes sense to give them a little more information, to be a little more vulnerable. You might say, “I’m hanging in there. This morning started out a little bit rough, but it’s turning around.” This might prompt them to ask a follow-up question or to say they can totally relate. Whatever their response, my guess is that it will lead to a brief back and forth, rather than the dead end response that typically comes with “Good,” “fine,” or “ok.”
Then, maybe later in the evening, you talk with a close friend, who asks how you are. And because this relationship is closer, you choose to share even more. You might say, “You know today was a hard day. I felt kind of off at work. I’m not really sure what’s going on.” This response, in the context of a close relationship, leads to empathy and conversation. But most of all, it leads to connection.
“How are you?” seems like such a simple question. It’s so easy to answer “Good,” “fine,” or “ok” and move on. But I promise, this is a missed opportunity for connection. And I don’t care who you are or what you’re dealing with, you need connection. All different levels of it. Everyday. Connection is a basic human need.
In a day and age where we have a million different devices and demands that keep us disconnected, being intentional about connection is critical. So you’ve got homework this week. Stop with the surface responses. Be intentional about being more transparent. Choose to be authentic.
When someone asks, “How are you?” challenge yourself to answer something other than, “Good,” “fine,” or “ok.” You’ll be amazed at the difference!
PS: In the mood for a little more relationship advice? Check out this post. It will make you think differently about relationships.