I avoid greeting people with, “how are you?” I work as a counsellor and so most of the people I am meeting cannot answer that question quickly or positively. How are they doing? It would take a full hour to say how they are doing and lots of what they have to say is painful and difficult.
I have heard that other cultures use different greetings. For example a common Mandarin greeting is to ask the other person if they have eaten. That sounds like a great way to greet someone. A simple yes or no answer will suffice.
The women I work with often talk to me about how hard it is that people ask them all day long, “how are you?”. Sometimes the women say that they feel like they are liars saying “fine” as a response because they are in fact anything but fine. They just found out their partner is cheating on them or their daughter is cutting herself. They are not fine! But a truthful answer is not often what is being asked for.
Personally I have tried to move away from “how are you?” as my greeting. Most often when I see people I say, “it is good to see you”. That is truthful on my end and does not require anything of the hearer. Then when I am really ready to hear how a person is doing I try to ask that sincerely and leave the time and space for the person to answer truthfully and fully. What about you? Do you have thoughts about our North American greeting and have you tried alternatives? I’d like to know.