How are you? A simple multiple choice question.

As I was walking into the grocery store the other day I saw a friend of mine.
He smiled and said, “How are you?”

I had a lot on my mind at that moment and I proceeded to tell him how I was doing.Β  When I looked up, I could see the look of horror on his face. Clearly I had violated appropriate social etiquette.

“How are you?” is a simple multiple choice question for which there are only two appropriate answers.

a) Good

b) Fine

Anything else is a breach of “said” social contract which we all unwittingly agree to, in order to function in our complex society.

So does anyone really care how anyone else is? Possibly, but that’s yet to be determined.

So let’s look at three possible scenarios for why this kind of interaction is taking place across the nation on a regular basis.

1. We truly don’t care about other people because we’re too wrapped up in our own little world.

2. We constantly feel like we’re rushing, so we don’t feel like we have the time to really care.

3. We’ve forgotten how to listen. Or we never learned how to listen. Or listening makes us uncomfortable.

I try hard not to fall into any of these camps, but if I do it would be the second camp. I’m overwhelmed with everything I feel I need to do. But much of it is self-imposed. Do I really need to check my email while my wife is trying to talk to me? Or cut the lawn instead of playing with my kids? Or just let time determine my interactions?

As for Guys in general, we are often accused of being in the third camp. Of course being a Guy, I feel like this is totally unfair. Yes, we’re easily distracted, but we do know how to listen, we just need to be interested in the topic at hand. But that’s not really being a good listener is it? It really shouldn’t matter what the topic is. Lending an ear to someone is about getting beyond yourself. The Guys are working on it!

In what camp do you fall if any?

So having said all of that, sometimes I just don’t want to DEAL. So I’ve begun to devise a system that might help us all deal a little easier. It’s pretty easy. Body parts symbolize certain things. You just nod and point. I’ll give you a few examples.

The Easy Way Out: How to not say, “How are you?”

Nod and put finger to mouth: This means I’m good, but I’m hungry. Stay away or you might get bitten.

Nod and point to crotch: This means I need to find a bathroom quickly, so no time to chat.

Nod and stick hands in armpits: Get back for your own protection. I haven’t showered.

Any other suggestions are welcome!

One thing my system makes very clear. You know if you walk by me and I say, “How are you?” I actually really want you to answer…..truthfully!!


16 Comments on How are you? A simple multiple choice question.

  1. Hahahah!!

    What I find almost MORE disconcerting is this:

    Coworker: “Hi, how are you?”

    Me: “Great!”

    Coworker: “Glad to hear it.”

    Me: “How are you?”

    They keep walking, as if they’re too busy to finish the conversation they started, or as if they’re sure I don’t really give a hoot. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered asking. But they’re already down the hall. Might as well just high five each other on the way by, right? It was only meant to be a simple acknowledgment of your presence, apparently, not an actual conversation.

  2. You’re absolutely right. “How are you?” is a dangerous question. Considering the human condition, you’re bound to get more in return than you bargained for. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of other people’s troubles. I have an unbounded respect for those who have learned to keep them to themselves.

  3. I feel most people in our society (I can only say for the USA) fall into a combination of those 3 catagories- with maybe more emphesis on #1. I believe I fall into category #4. I listen to hard luck stories or others whenever somebody needs me to do so. No bragging there. It’s just that I’ve just dug myself out of an emotional bottomless pit and I’m more than willing to listen. And help, when asked. Hell, even before that, people remarked what a good listener I was. Okay, now I’m bragging. πŸ™‚

    The media likes to play up that assumption about guys not being comfortable with listening or the inability to listen. If everyone listened to the media and consumed every word written on guys, we would accept it as FACT the all guys are either slobs, simpletons, cheaters or a combination of all of the above. When I’m near a person that blathers on about how bad guys are and obviously means it, I walk away- for fear of kicking them in the teeth.

    By the way, I’m fine. πŸ™‚ Thanks for askin’. lol

  4. “Yes, we’re easily distracted, but we do know how to listen, we just need to be interested in the topic at hand.”

    Somehow, I really feel at home here. Here is a blog that is trying to voice out my concerns. haha.

    Ok, where was I? Ahh… suggestions… suggestions… hmm…

    How about avoiding human contact entirely? Stay on the internet. Works really well for me. =)

  5. I like the fact that One of The Guys really does want a sincere answer. It seems that today if you ask someone how they are, they must pull themselves away from their gadgets in order to answer, and then it is only cursory. Are we losing intimacy because of computer chips?

  6. I hate the hi how are you greeting. At my work, it’s the opposite. I get very superficial responses when I accidentally add the how are you greeting. I think it’s just en-grained in my head and I have to say it. It’s almost second nature. Not just hi, but hi how are you spills out. I’ve gotten better at just saying good morning or good afternoon to these superficial coworkers who just say good, fine, ecetera. Just once I would love to get more of an answer.

    Btw, if I ever saw you point to your crotch when I asked how you were, I think I would be very disturbed!! πŸ˜‰

  7. I certainly hope I do not fall into any of those camps. When someone needs to talk to me, I hope I’ll be able to put down what I am doing and to give the person full attention.

    About the remark of guys in camp 3, I believe in general a lot of people (regardless whether they are men or women) failed to listen; they may be more interested in themselves than to what they are hearing. We should be listening wholehearted to what another is telling us and it shouldn’t depend on whether the topic interest us or not, just as you mentioned.

  8. For me it depends….. i sometimes listen to others and at times i am just not bothered.

  9. Listening is a lost art. We all need to work on that, guys and gals. But we get that sometimes a nod will suffice.

    Date Girl….we promise only to point to our crotch in extreme emergencies.

  10. great post! I’m with you….when I ask how you are, I really want to know. And my good friends answer me with truthful answers. The rest of the people? I don’t really care, it’s true…so fine will do. LOL!
    Thanks for your message on my blog saying I’d been quiet and where was I. I’m not sure if you know this, but I went back to work on Jan 4th after being off of work for a year. And it’s been a really hard transition for me. I haven’t even had time to blog since I returned! But I must, I must.
    Thanks for thinking of me!

  11. The greeting has lost its signifiance over time and as someone mentioned it is merely a recognition of your existence. This happens especially in my work environment where my boss will ask how I am and I would reply, “good. how are you?” with enthusiam, of course. Then he would reply, good, almost suprised that I had even asked. And then finally I conclude this greeting with, “Great.” Note: only a bit of sarcasm was expressed. lol And then we both move on. I don’t know how or why greetings have been simplified, but it is quite irritating regardless of the relationship you have with the person saying, “hello”.

  12. You are so right and I’m sorry I laughed as I read this post. People usually don’t care about how we really are,,a grunt or a groan will suffice. LOL

    Hugs to you….

    Dorothy from grammology

  13. Right on the money! I DETEST being asked the state of my being, when I know the person making the inquiry doesn’t care a fig if I’m fit as a fiddle or standing with one foot in the grave. Which is why I never, ever ask the question unless I truly care and have time for the response.
    I remember, years ago, encountering a good friend and his family just leaving a restaurant as we were entering. My husband made the mistake of asking the ancient grandmother “How are you?” and she proceded to tell him. For about fifteen minutes. My friend turned to me and said, “Don’tcha hate it when you ask and they actually TELL you?”
    And, uh…yeah, I’m with Date Girl…please don’t point to your crotch when a woman asks how you are. Or a man. You might just need a bathroom break, but I’d bet good money you’ll end up with a smacked face or a black eye.

  14. Okay – ONLY a guy would come up with the option of “Nod and point to crotch.” LOL! To a woman, that gesture says something more along the lines of, “I’m horny and can’t think or talk when my crotch is using up all my brain cells.”

    That said, my strategy is simply to provide a compliment in lieu of other greetings.

    “Nice shirt!” I may add a question if I actually want to interact but not mentally able to handle a life story. “Love that skirt. Is it new?”

  15. OK, you’re at least the third person who’s mentioned the crotch example. Maybe we’ll have to come up with a different
    gesture for an emergency bathroom break. But we still like the duality of it! πŸ™‚

  16. I’m with the others with the jester to crotch not a good thing, but would be interesting to see the reactions you might get!!!

    How are you?, has become so mundane, that now I just say something about the weather..beautiful day, is it ever going to stop raining, will be glad for spring ect….because in reality most people just aren’t really interested.
    BUT then you get that one person you do ask and you are like how do they even get up in the morning from all the drama in their lives…
    and by the end of the conversation you feel as though your energy has been totally drained from you. You then ask yourself what the hell did I ask that for?

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