The Question ‘How Are You’ What It Means

What one proves strong in, in one area, might otherwise depict weakness in another — no one is above being asked how they are or feel.

Comet N.FollowApr 5 · 6 min read

The question ‘how are you’ means a lot of things — both to the person asking and the person asked (giver and receiver if you like).

It’s one of the most meaningful questions that so many ask but very few means. There’s the mindset that only the sick and dying, poor and needy, visibly oppressed and enslaved, or within this spectrum only, can be asked the question and that’s a farce.

What one proves strong in, in one area, might otherwise depict weakness in another. No one is above being asked how they are or feel.

Someone who’s rich can be depressed, a beautiful lady can be really emotionally incomprehensible.

There are no restrictions with who can ask or get asked the question; a psychologist can ask/get the question, a teacher in your school is allowed to ask/get the question, your partner, parents, friends, other loved ones, and even strangers too — although receiving a sincere response is mostly based on the type of person asking and if they mean it.

The question ‘how are you’ breaks the ice in many conversations. It’s almost like a starter whereas receiving the response and being there, the main course.

It’s similar to inquiring about one’s welfare, sometimes deeper — with sincere feelings and compassion and other times superficial — like when one trips over and falls.

The kind I’m more interested in and which goes a long way to emanating care and love is the one which connotes a deeper thought.

When you ask someone about how they are or how they are feeling, what exactly does it mean?

Are you asking for the trifling sake of it or because you want to truly know?

Asking the question ‘how are you’ is an icebreaker

Have you once been stuck in an awkward situation where you stumble upon a group of strangers you didn’t know, maybe to ask for a direction or something and ended up blurting out and asking them how they are feeling first? Well, I have and it always worked. It minimizes the coldness in the room, it flattens the curve of awkwardness and instead creates an eco-friendly environment with which to settle down, catch your breath, and achieve what you came there for or want. It could be during your first day at work in your new job, it could be at the embassy or church or some other public place or event. You get it now. Point is saying hi and asking the question ‘how are you’ is an excellent ice breaker in any situation you don’t foresee how to go about it. Try it.

The question ‘how are you’ comes in various shades and encapsulates a lot

There are myriad of ways you can find out about someone’s state without technically asking them how they are. This is also because asking them ‘how are you’ could come off bland and hence, with a bland response — which you don’t want.

Variations in this could come as ‘how are you doing, what are you up to, what’s up, what’s really going on with you, how do you feel, wag wan?

Same difference.

It encapsulates a lot — from finding out if they are happy- if they are comfortable- to if they are settling alright, down to if they are feeling well thus covering a wide range; from mental to emotional to physical well-being.

Also when you genuinely ask the question, that’s when the receiver is prompted to give you a genuine response. You can’t ask the question ‘how are you’ and mean it and someone replies you with something entirely different or vague if that’s not the vibe you gave in the first place. Therefore, when you ask the question, bearing the mind the different shades it can come in, be prepared for the response.

The way you ask the question ‘how are you’ determines the response you get.

Asking the question ‘how are you’ meaningfully, says a lot about you too

It means that you’re sensitive enough to discern that it’s right and the right time for you to ask the question, it also shows that you’re compassionate enough in so doing because you understand that the next person may be feeling the need to talk to someone and that you’re a very good listener because you’re there to listen and not just hear them out.

Asking the question ‘how are you’ and truly listening to the response against hearing

One thing is to ask someone about how they are or feeling and another is to truly listen to them. Now, my observation, and I’m guilty of this too, is that we tend to ask the question for the sake of doing so and when a response is given, we don’t even pay attention to receive what we asked for. This is almost equal to not asking in the first place. Or most times, we ask the question when we already formulated the answer and so we avert our attention to something else when a response is being given.

It makes me remember the popular quote by Stephen R Covey that states; “most people do not listen with the intent to understand but with the intent to reply”.

Being a good listener makes you as good as a good asker. Timing and mannerism, mutually inclusive.

Worst still is asking about one’s welfare and jumping in to finish their statements.

This means that you know the answer to their problems beyond the question you’ve just asked. Jumping in to finish one’s statement is a sign of non-good listener who’s only concerned about what they think and how they sound (self-absorbed) as opposed to the person next to them.

It’s also a bad sign that shows you’re not self-aware — because being self-aware comes with paying attention to other people, not formulating your own ideas or response, but instead truly listening, peradventure you acquire new knowledge about yourself. This is in line with what Nick Wignall talked about in 5 Habits Of Self-Aware People.

When you pay attention to how a person feels, you could learn a thing or two about yourself and maybe offer a solution to something you initially thought was irredeemable.

The misconception about asking the question ‘how are you’

We always assume that when we inquire about how someone else is doing, we have signed an irrevocable contract in solving their problems when they give us a response. Most times this is not so. It’s a misconception. If you have the capacity to bring forth solutions to their needs in their response, that’s okay, but sometimes all we need is someone to talk to, honestly too. All we need is someone to trust enough to reply when they ask us the question in the most meaningful way. Most times the solution lies in someone else hearing us out.

I believe that it’s only the people you trust you can sincerely open up to, therefore, when you do so and feel like you’ve bothered someone about it, it’s either you’re being plain modest or they’re not worthy of your words.

In other words, askers and listeners both have responsibilities in making sure the end result is achieved — which could be in form of making someone else feel good, making them feel less afraid and lonely and making them feel that they matter — their feelings and emotions too.

That’s how far and effective a meaningful question of ‘how are you’ can be.

In a world full of chaos and noise, oversight and nonchalance, what would it cost you to text, call, or in person, ask the question ‘how are you’ or other variations of it, to inquire about one’s welfare and truly mean it — if not that it allows you gain more than lose — because then, you get to exercise that compassionate, caring, sensitive and good listening abilities that you possess. And most importantly the power to be there for somebody by lending your voice of reasoning and other specific forms of the solution to their problems and hence, contributing your quota to making the world a better place.

What would it cost you?

Let me start; how are you? how are you feeling, how do you do? how’s it going?

No really.

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