“How are you doing?” Dealing with rhetorical questions

While at the grocery store the other day, a store clerk asked me “How are you doing?”. Like a robot, I responded with “I’m Fine. And you?”. The store clerk did not skip a beat when replying with “I’m Good”.

Twenty minutes later, a cashier cheerfully asked, “How’s it going?”. I started to reply with “I’m fine”, but then realized my response ill-matched the question and proceeded to fumble an “It is going well” response.

It was this incident and many before that made me question rhetorical greetings like “What’s up?”, “How ya’ doing?”, and “What’s going on?”. Although they are based on the effort of being polite, these questions are overused. Have they lost their meaningfulness? Do they encourage communication follow through? So why ask them?

It would better to offer a simple “Hello” or “Good morning/ afternoon/ evening” in its place.

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