“Hello,” “How are you?”
In these turbulent times, is it still okay, after saying “Hello,” to ask “How are you?” Or, should people be asking something else instead?
We can no longer shake hands, must stand 6ft apart, and must wear face masks. That’s a lot of non-verbal cues to lose in the space of a few months. Let’s not lose this age-old greeting too. It still works depending on the context.
THERE ARE 3 CONTEXTS TO CONSIDER WHEN ASKING THIS QUESTION
- IN A “FIGHT OR FLIGHT” SITUATION:
Use common sense, if Covid-19 is rampaging through your city and everyone is in a fight for survival, it’s ludicrous to ask such a question.
2. WHEN MEETING SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW VERY WELL:
We have not expected anything but a perfunctory answer to this question for decades. If we don’t know someone well, we usually give the answer of “I’m fine, thank you.” This is not suddenly a new trend! If we’re the ones being asked the same question, we don’t usually, or at least shouldn’t, launch into a diatribe about our problems from sciatica to the price of toilet paper. This would have been regarded as TMI (too much information) not so long ago.
Bottom line: Nobody wants or needs to hear our tales of woe and it serves no purpose as the questioner can’t do anything about it anyway. This is not about being disingenuous, it’s being sensitive to others.
3. WHEN MEETING FRIENDS AND FAMILY:
On meeting a good friend or family member, it is perfectly fine to answer candidly about how you really feel and vice-versa. That’s absolutely normal and encouraged, as it was in the days before Covid-19.
So, yes, go ahead and keep saying “Hello,” How are?”, but remember the context.