“How Are You?” is an Amorphous, Near-Meaningless Question. It’s Not Alone. Words matter less than we think.

One of the many “How are you?” contexts.

Let’s take “How are you?” as an example.

Is it one of our most meaningful questions?

We greet the grief-stricken with it.

We use it in lieu of: “It’s been so long, I’m so happy to see you!”

Or is it one of our most meaningless questions?

We use it rhetorically as a de minimis way to say hi without expecting an answer.

When it is not rhetorical, it can mean anything from “How are you in a vague and general sense?” to “What is your greatest and most personal life crisis at this very moment?”

The question’s context is way more important than the words themselves.
Turns out this is true for lots of questions, so listen to more than the words.

My book, Long Term Person, Short Term World, is FREE this weekend (Saturday, May 27-Monday, May 29.) If you liked this post, you’d probably really like the book.