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We hear it, and say it, all the time.
Three little words that often don’t mean much. Three little words that we mumble in passing, when we’re busy and hurried and don’t want to be rude—but also don’t really have the time, or the emotional capacity, to engage.
How are you?
They’ve become an empty greeting. A way to acknowledge someone without having to slow down long enough to create an actual connection. Without having to witness another person in their vulnerability or be vulnerable ourselves.
And because so many of us throw this question around out of habit, our responses are often just as superficial. We say “I’m fine.” Or “Doing well. And you?” Or “Can’t complain.”
We say it even if we’re not fine. Even if we’re doing the opposite of well. Even if we have a list of complaints.
And in some circumstances that’s okay. When we run into a casual acquaintance at the supermarket, it’s probably not the ideal time to burst into tears and detail our latest personal drama.
But we need to find that connection somewhere. And maybe that starts with retiring “How are you?” from our vocabulary and asking questions that genuinely make others want to open up.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through one of Elephant’s Facebook pages and saw a question a fellow editor had posed for readers:
What’s one question you wish people would ask instead of “How are you”?
The next time you’re with someone you care about, someone you want to know better, someone you are hoping to connect with—and you have the time and the emotional space to truly dig in—ask them this:
1. Are you happy?
2. Do you want some tacos?
3. What are you struggling with?
4. Have you had your coffee yet?
5. What’s on your heart today?
6. Your outfit bangs…What made you choose it?
7. What have you created today?
8. How can I actually help you?
9. What made you smile today?
10. Where are you planning to go for your next trip?
11. Can I get you a cup of tea?
12. What are you looking forward to?
13. Would you like a hug?