Societal Norms That Don’t Make Sense – Pt. 2

How are you?

It may be the most socially acceptable form of small talk, but I still think it’s unnecessary. The question “How are you?” is usually irrelevant in daily interactions and possibly the worst way to start a conversation with a stranger for two reasons.

Firstly, it almost always guarantees a dishonest reply, especially when conversing with someone you aren’t as close to. Think about it, when have you ever answered the question “How are you?” truthfully with a stranger or even an acquaintance? Of course, with a best friend, you’ll probably give a lengthy spiel in response, but unless you’re just an open book, the reply is always a variation of the phrase “Good, you?”

Secondly, “How are you?” does not further discussions. The question is an extreme form of small talk that fills roughly 1-2 seconds of interactions with superficial, bland responses. It introduces no new topics and leaves a tense, awkward air that now must be filled with a different, more effective form of small talk. The sturdiest method for keeping a conversation going is to ask a question that allows for connections and further elaboration. “How are you?” certainly does not do that.

On top of that, “How are you?” presents no new information relating to the person you’re speaking with. For instance, let’s say you meet someone and wish to learn more about them. So, you ask them how they are. Their response is short:

“I’m great! How about you?”

If you ask a different, more open-ended question like, “What do you like to do?” you’ll learn more about the person, building a stronger relationship.

 All in all, “How are you?” is generally not conducive to deep conversations. It’s a very shallow question that is never properly answered and cuts discussions off right at their beginnings. For more interesting, mind-stimulating interactions, I suggest removing this superficial starter from your vocabulary and focusing on broader get-to-know-you topics.

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3 thoughts on “Societal Norms That Don’t Make Sense – Pt. 2

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