How are you really

How are you? Small question - great importance

At first glance, the question is completely harmless: "How are you?" Often it is just a platitude, a kind of icebreaker during small talk, in order to get into conversation. What is meant here is the emphasis on the last word: How are you? So real interest in the other person. And that's rare. Just watch what happens when you ask your friends, colleagues and acquaintances the same question: Most of them like to chat, talk about their family, about their job, about plans, vacations, goals ... But how many ask the same question back afterwards - so you?

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Monologue or dialogue?

"How are you?" - This is how a conversation begins between good friends and old acquaintances who may not have seen each other for a while. In the past, we have deliberately paid attention to how many acquaintances, colleagues and friends ask the question themselves - sincerely. Especially if you have previously asked how they are. In fact, there are two groups:

The self-promoter

Some use the question and tell with great vigor and a lot of euphoria about themselves, what they are doing, what they are planning, about developments, successes or even annoyances. But they rarely or never ask about their counterpart. And how are you? Now tell me ... one hardly hears from them. To put it badly, you could also say: you would like to hear yourself talk.

The listeners

The others are less of a chatterbox than gifted listeners. They ask at least as intensively as they talk about themselves. Or to put it another way: You are really interested in your counterpart. Little by little they hook up, want to know details, explore feelings. The professionals among them even tie in with stories long ago and ask again what has become of the child's school problems or the one project that is close to the heart, for example.

Why do you ask "How are you"?

At least as important as the question is the intention. Do you ask "How are you", for example to cover up your own embarrassment? Or to network? The location and the medium are not entirely unimportant. The question is quickly asked in social networks and on channels such as Whatsapp. Until an answer comes, the questioner can easily write with other people. Communication via messenger also has something fleeting and non-binding about it - an answer is by no means given or expected immediately. It is different if you address someone directly: You have to wait for an answer, anything else would be grossly impolite.

Motivation: small talk

Whether you meet someone you know on the street and want to be polite or you want to network at an event, small talk is an excellent social lubricant. "How are you" is then a phrase to get started and as such more of a makeshift. It ranks on the same level as "You too here" and only works with acquaintances. Examples of better conversations are:

➠ What did you have to laugh about today?
➠ What did you like about the lecture?
➠ What do you get inspired by?
➠ Which moment of today would you want to capture?
➠ What makes a successful day for you?
➠ What is your experience with this brand?
➠ What books are you currently reading?

The great advantage of these questions is that your counterpart can hardly fob you off with a “Thank you, good” or “Must, yes!”. The answer to this is a little more detailed. This not only gives you time to prepare a possible follow-up question, but can also be the start of an interesting conversation.

Motivation: interest

Another reason for asking is that you want to inquire about the condition of the other person, maybe even worry about the person. It already depends on how someone puts it and how personal the further questions or comments are. The question "How are you?" Has innumerable variations:

➠ How is your family?
➠ How is your partner doing?
➠ How are your children?
➠ What is your health doing?
➠ How is your job going right now?
➠ Which projects are you currently working on?
➠ What are your plans for this year?
➠ Where are you going on vacation this year?

Ultimately, it's not so much a question of the exact formulation, but rather of the real interest behind it. If this is available, follow-up questions arise almost by themselves. Encouraged by an appropriate curiosity and facilitated by prior knowledge - for example about family status or profession. The attitude behind the question reveals true appreciation for the individual. And that is an important prerequisite for a trusting exchange. Small question - great importance. And effect. And that is sometimes less common than you might think. Pay attention once!

"How are you" in different languages

In times of globalization it is more and more a matter of course that business trips lead to English-speaking countries. Business relationships with (still) Great Britain, America, Canada and Australia require proficient Business English.

The vocabulary alone is not enough. Intercultural competence is also in demand in supposedly similar cultures, because the counterpart to How are you? is in English How are you? So far, so well known. What many do not know, however: In the English-speaking culture, it is an important politeness phrase that should not simply be ignored.

Many Germans are used to getting to the point quickly. And that's how they want to do business, because time is money. The British and many other cultures are not used to such directness. Instead, a greeting that might look like this is appropriate:

How are you: English

  • Your counterpart asks:How are you? / How are you doing? / How have you been?
  • They answer:I'm good thanks, and yourself? / Fine, how about you? / Not bad, yourself? / Doing well, thanks. / Thanks for asking, I'm doing fine. / And you?

The next mistake some Germans make, however, is to assume that more than this banter would be expected. While in this country at How are you? If a serious answer is often expected, that would be exactly the wrong reaction in the English-speaking culture - at least if you are not familiar with each other. You are correct if your answer is short and non-binding and you ask back politely. If your counterpart actually wants to know how you are, there are two ways to signal this:

  • It is emphasized differently: Instead of a simple one How are you? becomes How are you? asked.
  • It is checked: If you are in the company of familiar people, as in German, a really interested person will not be fobbed off with a short answer, but will observe your facial expressions and, if necessary, follow up.

With English as a world language, you will come very far. It makes a particularly good impression if you are also able to speak in other languages How are you? can ask. You don't have to be a linguist for this, because these greeting phrases are usually so short that they can be learned and memorized in various European languages. A quick hello followed by How are you? in the local language is a friendly invitation to talk and signals interest in your counterpart. In addition, anyone who knows a few words in the local language shows respect and their efforts. Then you can easily switch back to a language that both speak. To get you started, here are some common phrases:

How are you: French

  • Comment ça va? (How are you?)
  • Ça va? (Are you?)
  • Comment vas-tu? (How are you?) Or if you siezen: Comment allez vous? (How are you?)
  • Comment tu te sens? (How do you feel?)

How are you: Spanish

  • ¿Como estás? (How are you?), (How are you?) Or if you are siezen: ¿Como está? (How are you?)
  • ¿Como te va? (How are you?)
  • ¿Qué tal? (How are you?)
  • ¿Qué pasa contigo? (How are you?), (How are you?)

How are you: Italian

  • Come stai? (How are you?), (How are you?) Or if you are siezen: Come sta? (How are you?)
  • Come ti senti? (How are you feeling?)
  • Come va? (How are you?)
  • Come va tutto? (How are you?)

Would you like an empty phrase or an honest answer?

The Americans are often accused of merely being polite with their question, while in-depth discussions are being held here. In Germany, however, it is not quite as general as to say whether an honest answer is desired with “How are you” or just an empty phrase. Because the truthful variant carries the risk that the answer will not turn out as we would like it to be. Or that the respondent bursts into tears - what then?

Many are not good at dealing with the depression or grief of others. It requires a good deal of empathy and a brief exchange of information is usually not enough - rather, the reasons for the poor state of health have to be found out, i.e. checked. For those who don't want that, “How are you” is just a kind of greeting. And most people understand that too. Death, grief, pain - in short: everything that is associated with negative associations hardly has any place in public.

Ask honestly interested

If you really want to know how your counterpart is doing, you will not be satisfied with short and concise replies like the following:

➠ Thank you, good.
➠ Must be.
➠ Already fits.
➠ Can't complain.
➠ As always.

If "How are you" is to become more than just an empty phrase, it needs more attention:

Watch out for signals

Do you really want to ask someone how they are doing - and not a ready-made standard answer in the form of All good and yourself? you need to listen actively. This means that you do not pay attention to the words, but also to facial expressions and gestures. Does the other really look like everything is fine? If you know the other person well, you should be able to assess whether the body language matches the words.

Question the answer

To get an honest answer to the question How are you? Sometimes you have to ask and get straight to the point. Don't be fobbed off with a general answer - especially if you have the feeling that something is wrong. For example, you could say I can tell that you are not doing well. So what's going on? If you want to show right from the start that you are interested in a sincere answer, you can start with: How are you? And now don't come ‘well with everything, but tell me‘ how you are really doing.

Give your counterpart time

Some find it difficult to open up and tell others that you are not doing well yourself. Even with friends or within the family it takes some effort. Therefore, give the other person the necessary time to talk about the true state of mind. Sometimes it is enough to simply show patience and to be able to endure a pause in which no one speaks. This is not an uncomfortable silence, but the silent message I am there waiting until you are ready to talk about it.


"How are you?" Is sometimes followed by "I miss you!"

Answer "how are you" honestly?

This question can only be answered depending on the situation. If the HR manager asks you how you are doing in an interview, in most cases it would be tactically unwise to let yourself be checked 100 percent. A truthful answer is usually expected to a polite question. This should be in steps:

Fleeting acquaintance

If you are okay, there is nothing to prevent you from responding with “Thank you, good and you?”. Even if you are not doing so well, a cautious answer such as “everything is okay” is appropriate. You don't have to turn yourself inside out every time. Friends and family are responsible for serious problems. If the serious problems cannot be dealt with, therapeutic help can be useful.

Closer acquaintance

If the question is asked seriously, it invites you to pour out the heart. By answering honestly, "How are you", you can share your thoughts and concerns, get advice and help. This honesty makes you vulnerable and liberating at the same time. Last but not least, you demonstrate such a vote of confidence. And trust is the beginning of everything. Especially from real friendships.

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