“How are you” is not a statement

-Bethani Thomas, Opinions Editor

I hate when people say in passing, “Hey, how are you?” This is such an American thing. I don’t know why it happens. It boggles me to pieces, and it needs to stop. Obviously, stopping to talk to someone and asking how they are doing is not what I am referring to at all. It’s the keywords from my first sentence: in passing.

I say in passing referring to a state of physical movement past another person, whether stationary or in movement. Other words to describe this phrase could be incidentally or even coincidentally. This is a happenstance, momentary meeting, not a sit-down-have-a-coffee-and-converse-with-me extended moment. So why do we ask, “how are you” with hardly even a chance to catch the usually un-thought-out response of “I’m good!”?

Of course, I will once again state, as I have in other articles I’ve written, that I am also guilty of this strange phenomena of converting the question “how are you” into a careless statement—but no more.

This decision was made my sophomore year when I had an interesting conversation with an international student. This student from China asked me one day why Americans “didn’t care.” Immediately, I asked him why he thought Americans didn’t care, and who/what were they not caring about. He proceeded to explain how every American student he had met since arriving to MC would wave and give a “how are you” greeting when they saw him.

Of course, his awkward new-culture, broken-English response was to stop walking while trying to remember their name and work to quickly put together some kind of salutation that he had learned so he could say it correctly. But by that time, the student was had walked past and was gone and had not waited for any kind of response. The Chinese student looked at me questioningly and asked if he was doing something wrong, or if he had misunderstood some cultural cue or custom.

Up until that point, I had already thought about the flippantly used phrase myself, but had decided not to take offense when people I had met didn’t seem to care to follow through by hearing the answer. But when I heard what the foreign student thought and how he had felt after experiencing that situation several times, I felt an anger in me towards those who had made him feel inadequate. The anger was a little dramatic, but even then I vowed to stop asking people in passing how they are unless I plan or have the time to stop and listen to, not just hear, their response.

By reading this article I hope you realize the importance of having a genuineness behind your words. Words are vital to our existence, and can change the way people see us. So be real with your words, your greetings, and your questions.

Proverbs 13:3: “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”


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