Repetitive inquiries aide in loss of sincerity when greeting friends

Eric Ariel Salas

Eric Ariel Salas

I counted the number of “HOW ARE YOU(s)” I received today. Nine. This doesn’t count the other “how are yous” I heard from students at the Union, the pathways, hallways and other possible places where people meet accidentally or intentionally.

I told a friend about this kooky feeling I am having against the greeting. “How are you” could easily qualify as the most overused word next to “hi” and “hello” in this part of the world.

Here is a personal rationale. When someone says, “Hi,” or “Hello,” the addressee is anticipated to either smile or wave or answer back with the same word. Example: Maria meets Peter. Maria says, “Hi, Peter.” Peter answers, “Hi, Maria.” Simple and quick communication. Conversation ends. Single words that when said demand a simple and snappy comeback.

However, when someone asks, “How are you”, since it is an open-ended question, the addressee is expected to answer in a form of a phrase or a sentence. Example: Maria meets Peter. Maria says, “How are you, Peter?” Peter replies, “I feel great, Maria. Thanks.” This greeting also invites a cross-examination. Since the addressor seems concerned of the addressee, the latter might want to show a little interest and throw the concern back to know how the addressor feels at the moment, by asking something like, “How about you?” The addressee [who becomes the addressor this time] anticipates for an answer, sure. So the process is a bit longer when the “how are you” is used. Unless, of course, the addressee wouldn’t want to know how the addressor feels and would just quickly answer and run away. But that is being so ill-mannered.

There really is nothing bad about the greeting. In fact, I luxuriate in it very much when someone inquires about how I am. It feels good to know that someone cares. These days though, I digested that the greeting is already losing its real sense. That it has become so ordinary, like a clich