“Hey, how are you?”
We’re conditioned to think that white lies and superficiality are courteous, and I think it’s had a profoundly negative impact on our entire culture and society – in the way we operate unconsciously. We don’t want to connect with one another anymore. We only want to engage in one of a number of pre-written calls-and-responses, so as to appear courteous and kind without actually having to engage with anyone on a sincere and genuine level.
If you don’t have time to have a meaningful interaction with someone, fine… when did we decide that being honest was impolite? Which is worse: being genuinely disinterested, or faking interest? Perhaps I don’t care how you’re doing, and that’s fine. I’ll just say “Hello,” and keep walking. Perhaps I’m not great, and when you ask, “How are you?” I’ll reply, “I don’t stop to think about it. I stay occupied,” because in the moment, that’s honest. Should I be worried about what weight my response is putting on you? Perhaps we should really be asking why you bothered to ask a question when you didn’t really want to know the answer. One of my mentors in life, my Bulgarian kickboxing instructor Misho, used to respond to “How are you?” with “Do you really want to know? Up and down.” It immediately begs the question, “DO I want to know? If not, why am I asking?”
Like neckties, salad forks, and powdered wigs, courteous, superficial call-and-response style greetings have unfortunately become an accepted and ingrained part of our society, as has the concept of the “polite white lie”, but why not start looking at what they really are, breaking them down, and deciding to act sincerely, in the moment, rather than continually acting out a tired script from muscle memory? Is this a big problem in the grand scheme of things? No, but neither is which direction your toilet paper is facing. Maybe by paying more attention to our daily interactions, and striving to make each one real and sincere, the practice can bleed into other parts of our lives and the ripple effect can, hopefully, help to make us more honest and sincere people in general.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just some guy, flying by the seat of my pants and making it up as I go.
“Hey, how are you?”
“Hey! It’s been up and down, and I’m in a hurry. Let’s chat another time.”
“Sounds good, hang in there!”