I think the simple phrase of “How are you?” is one of the most powerful phrases in any language. It’s asking for a retelling and invitation into someone’s experience, if even for a moment. We become privy to someone’s thoughts and feelings, which is terrific from psychological, emotional, and humanistic perspectives. Some will brush this question off and say, “Good! How’re you?”. At the Farmington Fair last week, I made a noise with my relatively small voice at a booth and the man said this to me. I could tell from this that he was not listening. When I ask this question, I do genuinely care. I want to hear what’s good, or why your day has been good. I also want to hear if it’s bad, or why it’s bad, or what happened. When I answer this question, I have made it a habit to answer bluntly and truthfully. I think it’s only fair and only ethical. Even when I avoid it by saying any variant of “It’s been a day! How’re you doing?” I’m still alluding to something bigger while keeping some bits to myself, whenever I need to. Simply saying, “Good!” undercuts the human connections created by this phrase and I think that’s terrible. I try, though unfortunately don’t always succeed to, ask this question back, because of this value.
In the show, South Park, we are introduced to the character Chef. He always asks the children how they are and they’ll often respond with “BAD!”, Chef will say, “Why ‘bad’?”, and the kids will ask a vulgar question that will draw Chef into the plot of the episode. It allows the exposition to flow in a comedic manner and it brings in the characters the show can contain. I think the concept can and should apply similarly to the human experience we see in our day-to-day lives. We can incorporate Chefs into our lives and create this mutually beneficial experience by simply asking and answering this question honestly. I suggest going for it and seeing how it goes, at least for a while. Now I ask, how are you doing?