Asking others “How are you?” can have more of an impact than you think


Arpita Das

Me second semester of 10th grade attending brunch with a friend when I should have been doing homework.

These months of the year can either go one of two ways for me: stressful or joyful. It’s the start of a new year, and that’s exciting for me, but it either goes down one path or another. This time of the year either drags out every 24 hours or flies by like a person on a zipline, and whenever someone asks me “How are you?” I never seem to know what the correct response is. 

For me, it has always been dependent on the factor of who I’m receiving the question from. If it’s from a teacher, I am often very cautious about my response, the last thing I need is for them to worry about a student’s emotional state at school. Similarly, if it’s from a friend, I keep my response short and sweet. I sometimes feel bad for feeling upset because, sometimes, it feels selfish to be sad when I know there is a multitude of people who are in more dire situations. 

So, how exactly do you approach these inquiries designated to self-care? To be honest, I still haven’t found the right answer, but here is what I’ve learned. It’s okay to not always be at your 100%. In fact, it’s impossible to be that 24/7, 365 days a year.

Whenever someone asks me “How are you?” I never seem to know what the correct response is.

So why should we be holding ourselves to an unachievable standard? It’s because it’s not healthy, and it’s okay to not be okay. There are days when I’m not all right, but whenever someone asks me, I always return the favor and ask them right after “How are you?” because, to me, that’s what I’ve been taught as “common courtesy.” I’d feel selfish for not checking up on other people after they went out of their way to do the same. 

A short time ago, I discovered something about myself. I found out that talking about my problems became a core solution to all of my obstacles, doing it the old-fashioned way. I once asked someone if unhappiness is eternal and their response really stuck with me. They said that it’s typical to be upset, but as long as it doesn’t last forever, everything will work out. 

That’s why I always try to remain calm whenever someone asks how I’m doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m lying if I’m having a bad day, but to quote the wise words of Gerard Way, a famous songwriter, “Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” 

You can never really know how someone is doing until you ask them. Regardless of how they respond and what their response might entail, asking someone this single three-worded question can mean the world and vice versa.