Stop Asking “How Are You?” – My Top 3 Alternatives
Maybe I should be grateful when people ask how I’m doing. Like this friend, for example.
But instead, I just curse them under my breath and think about how horrible they are at texting.
Sadly, I’ve done it too.
But seriously, when is the last time you got excited when someone texted or greeted you with “how are you”? If you’re anything like me, it probably made you groan, and here are 3 reasons why.
Why “how are you?” sucks
1. This is the automatic filler phrase we use to acknowledge people
Instead of a simple nod or a “hello”, we usually go through the exchange below when encountering people throughout the day:
Person A: “Hi, how are you?”
Person B: “Good, and you?”
Person A: “I’m good, thanks”
And that’s it!
This has always seemed super weird to me. Why do we go through this useless charade? I don’t have the answer, but I know that asking “how are you?” no longer has any significance. If someone asks you this question, you can safely assume they don’t want the real answer.
2. It’s even worse on text
In person, I can put my hand on your shoulder, look into your eyes, smile warmly, and gently ask, “how are you?” – and that’s a very different question.
But that’s impossible to translate on text; there’s just not enough context. So this question just seems redundant with a greeting like “hey”.
3. It’s a horrible way to get people to open up
Whenever I used to “catch up” with someone, my typical strategy was to say something like “hey, I haven’t seen you in so long, how are you?” or “what’s new with you?”.
And I would get annoyed with myself, because everyone would just give simple answers, like “good” or “tired” and then direct the question back at me! I would, of course, give a similar response, and then the awkward, uncomfortable silence would take over.
I now understand my error. Asking “how are you?” is like saying “Hey, I want to connect with you. YOU pick a topic".
This puts a huge burden on the other person, because there are so many ways that question can be answered. The other person must now remember which parts of their life you know about, which parts you care about, which parts you would be comfortable knowing about, whether anything is new or noteworthy in those areas, etc.
And that’s a lot of work, so it’s no wonder people gave simple answers when asked “how are you?”. It’s easier, safer, and as we become numb to this question, automatic.
But there’s a better way.
My top 3 alternatives to “how are you?”
For me, this problem was maddening, because I craved deep connections. I craved those soul-baring conversations that lead to lifelong friendships. But with this question, the best I got was surface level updates on work or travel. Blech.
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to do something about it.
After 4+ years of practice and $25,000+ invested in a program with a dating coach, I don’t have this problem anymore. My text conversations are way more interesting, and every time I spend time with a friend, I know I’m going to have a meaningful conversation with them.
But you don’t have to go through all that, because I’ve boiled it down for you. Here are the top 3 things I do instead of asking “how are you?”.
1. Recall and ask about the little things
It means the world to people when you remember little details about their life. Sometimes, that information is available if you just scroll up to your previous texts with them. Or, you may have incredible memory and remember everything they talked about the last time you connected.
My memory is not that amazing, so I plan ahead for this. When I connect with someone and they mention something they are excited about, when we part ways, I set myself a reminder to ask them about it in the future. This is really easy to do with the digital personal assistants built into our phones. Here’s how I do it with Siri in about 5 seconds.
Sure, technically I didn’t remember. But, I cared enough to want to remember, and that’s what matters.
2. Ask about an area of life that they care about
Perhaps you can’t think of something specific to ask about (and you just now learned of awesome tip #2). If you’re reaching out to a friend, presumably you have some idea of what they care about. For me, this would be dating, nutrition, fashion, writing, speaking, coaching, etc. I’ll always have something to say about those things, because they matter to me. For example, these would all be wonderful questions to ask me:
- Amin, which dating app do you like best right now?
- Amin, what are you going to write about next?
- Amin, what do you think of neck tattoos?
Of course, the more specific, the better. I cringe when people ask “how’s work?"
3. “I was thinking about you"
Sometimes it has just been so long that it’s hard to remember anything specific about someone. In those instances, I go with the tried-and-true “I was thinking about you”.
There’s just something fantastic in knowing that someone was thinking about me. It makes us feel incredibly special.
I typically pair this with an invitation to chat on the phone or get together, since I find those to be best for reigniting a connection. Here’s an example.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts on asking “how are you?”
- When do you use it?
- How do you respond if it’s directed to you?
- Which alternatives work well for you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Do you freeze up around attractive women? Have you never kissed a girl? Have you never had a girlfriend? Do you feel that everybody else has friends but you don’t? I’ve been there. And it sucks.
Here's my 30 second story:
I use a wheelchair and I have a degenerative muscle condition. I was always the shy, nerdy kid, and I had ZERO success with women – my first kiss didn't happen until I was 22 years old. I went to an Ivy League University and landed my dream job at Microsoft, but I was miserable. After the girl I was in love with told me, "I don't know how any woman could be attracted to a guy in a wheelchair," I hired a dating coach to turn my life around. Now, my social calendar is booked weeks in advance, and I get to choose the friends that I really want to spend time with. Now, I've been on 60+ dates, I've enjoyed sex and intimacy with several women, and I've had incredible girlfriends.
If you desire similar experiences, I know I can help you. Get my practical tips for improving your social and dating life by signing up below. I would love to help you, because now that I've experienced these massive improvements in my life, I wish someone would have stepped in much earlier and helped me.