How are you– was always a dumb question. It has turned the society into a superficial pool of people who don’t really care about each other. However, they ask each other- how are you- everyday.
My name is Amar and this is the happiness blog. I get up every morning and think about ways to make the world a happier place. You may check out the posts on the blog when you get time. Every post is designed to make you happy and happier. That is my purpose. I am just trying to figure how to scale it.
So, back to the topic. Why does how are you suck as a question?
Think about yourself. How many times have you answered this question honestly? The answer for most of us would be close to zero. We don’t really care about each other as a society much. Do we? I am not saying I am a saint and I have really changed the world for good. Yes, I am trying.
I don’t think I have ever honestly answered the question well, don’t even think that people who ask how are you really care about how people are. As far as I can, I try to avoid asking the question, unless I mean it.
These days, a lot of people don’t even ask how you are. They have moved on to even better versions- what’s up dude?
Now, what’s up?
I don’t know what’s up. As a comedian, I joke that when people ask me this question, they rather mean what part of my body is up. So, since this is private information, I don’t answer.
You see where we are going?
We are going towards a more superficial, and pretentious society, when we should be moving towards a more loving and caring society.
So, what do we do? Is there a solution to the question how are you?
Yes, there is. If you really care about the person you are about to have a conversation with, ask them- are you happy?
ARE YOU HAPPY?
Replace how are you with are you happy.
Can we do that as a society? Can we do that? Is it possible? I don’t know if it is possible to change decades of upbringing in a decaying, shallow society.
But, I am a utopian guy who wants to live in a world where people care for each other. I want to live in a world where people are happy- a happy world is my ambition. It may be too far to expect, but that’s my ambition.
Are you happy?
You see when I ask you that question- you can’t lie. I don’t really care if you answer this question to me right now. But, if I ask you this question, you would be forced to evaluate your entire life- your personal life, your professional life, your social life- and what they mean to you.
Imagine you go to office, and your boss asks you if you are happy
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It is crazy, but if your boss is supposed to ask you if you are happy, he/she would be forced to care about things that matter to you:
- You role
- The compensation
- Levels of satisfaction with your colleagues
- The growth plan
- Your work-life balance
You see, how important is this question?
Imagine, on the other hand, if your boss asks you how are you every day, you don’t really care about answering the question, so you say you are fine, and life moves on. Oh, sorry, we didn’t have to imagine anything in this case- did we? This is life, as is.
Imagine your partner asks you every now and then- are you happy
You may have a meltdown the first time they ask you this question, because all this while, nobody cared. Well, if they asked you, if you are happy, what would you say- would you be able to lie?
No, you won’t be able to lie. It is almost impossible to lie to – are you happy.
If someone looks into your eyes and asks you if you are happy, you would be forced to answer if you are, or if you are not.
The problem with the society
The problem is that the society is not structured around happiness. Over 80% people don’t like their jobs as per Gallup.These same people go around every day asking each other- how are you– and constantly lying. They know that they are lying to each other, and it’s supposed to be cool.
People aren’t happy in personal relationships, but nobody is willing to dig deep. Happiness is a deep thing. You can’t fake happiness. You can fake success, though.
So, we have learned to live in a world where it is cool to not ask each other about their state of happiness. If we did, we know that the response rates would be terrible and nobody- including the employers or politicians would be happy to know that their employees or their citizens have started not to lie about their happiness.
As a consequence, what we have is a pretentious society. What does the pretentious society do- it asks each other every day- how are you?
Nobody cares about the answer. People are happy pretending to themselves that they are happy with the fake life that they have created- doing work they don’t like, spending time with people they don’t like.
Most of the society is miserable, and it’s supposed to be cool. Why question the unhappiness and misery? Just ask- how are you- and move on. Who the fuck is answering anyway?
Let us look at some of the answers people usually give to the question- how are you
“I am good.”
“I am alright. How about you.”
“Cool, man, what’s up?”
You see, how lame these answers are. In fact, life in most cases has moved on, by the time these answers land. People have moved on to work, to errands and to whatever else seems to be more important in the moment. Does that sound familiar?
Stop asking “how are you!”
Just stop asking this lame question. If you don’t want to answer a deep question, don’t. Ask the question only in case you would really care to follow up. Consider the conversation below between two colleagues.
“Hey, how are you?”
“I am fine.”
“Are you, you don’t sound fine?”
“Nah, I am fine. Actually I am not fine. Mm…I had an argument with the boss and now I am scared if that would affect my appraisal. Since I worked quite hard this year but I can’t be a sycophant, which he expects everyone to be. I don’t know what to do.”
“Yeah, I had the same problem, the other day. It’s turning me off from coming to work altogether. Do you think we should do a collective opinion from the team and see if we need a solution?”
“Yeah, we should.”
You see! However, this is an unlikely conversation, unless the colleagues are friends.
Ask “how are you”only if you care about the follow up.
Try asking “are you happy?”
“Hey, are you happy?”
“Nah, I am not happy. How you can be happy in such an atmosphere where your boss expects you to be a sycophant? I am not happy and I don’t know what to do about it. Does anybody care about happiness here?”
“I am struggling too with the attitude of the boss. We should try talking to the HR. Our company’s credo says that the employees’ happiness is a prerogative.”
“Really, is it? Let me read the credo…Damn it does. Let us talk to the HR”
This is a sample and hypothetical work conversation with a hypothetical credo. Asking if people are happy can transform our society, and make us question everything we do!
I know this is not easy, and I don’t even expect people to change their behaviours suddenly. I am just saying that we are not designed well as a society, and our priorities are fucked up.
Prioritize happiness in offices, in relationships-everywhere
If you would care about each other’s happiness, companies would not hire people if they didn’t like what they were applying for. People wouldn’t themselves apply for jobs they don’t think would make them happy.
If we would care about each other’s happiness, people wouldn’t marry each other because of reproduction, caste or race. People would marry each other only if they truly loved each other.
If we cared about each other’s happiness, we would not be going about asking people how they are without caring about how they are.
Hey, are you happy?
I am asking you. Are you happy?
Look at your workday- do you do work that you like? Do you do work that is in line with who you are as a person? Can you do stuff that you find inspiring and meaningful? Do you?
Are you spending your time with people you love and care about? Do they make you happy? Do you find joy in your personal relationships?
Think about your friends. Do you have friends with whom you can share your vulnerabilities without being judged? Do you have 2-3 close friends that you have spent over a decade sharing life stories with?
You see, the answer to the happiness questions in either a yes or a no, and nobody can lie.
Alright, I know the title of the post if rather provocative and this would probably never be the reality for the whole of society. Asking people if they are happy, is a huge ask, and I don’t think we would get to a society any time soon where in offices, in homes, in social circles, people would begin to care so much about each other suddenly. I don’t know if it is possible. I am, just saying.
Happiness or the lack of it, doesn’t lie
In fact, happiness or even pain doesn’t lie. If you spend enough time with a person at work or at home, you can literally look at them, and know if they are happy or not. If you care, you would probe.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a society where people care. We live in a pretentious society where people have created masks of different kinds- personal masks, professional masks, and it’s perfectly fine to not be happy.
So, “how are you”works just fine. We don’t want to go deep. We don’t want to ask if people are happy because we don’t care enough. If we cared if people were happy, we would go and ask people. We would probe and won’t just accept the way things are. People won’t stay in unhappy relationships. They won’t stay in unhappy and painful jobs- all our lives. We won’t.
Do I wish it happened that we would build a society around happiness? Absolutely I do. I wish we could build a society where people cared about each other’s happiness. I wish didn’t just throw “how are you” around without caring how people really are.
By the way, how are you?
Thank you for reading.
Why do I write this blog?
The purpose of this blog to help you find your happiness. Please read the other posts on the blog, and follow so that you get updates when new posts are published. Please share any posts you like with your friends so that they can also find their happiness. If you have any feedback for me, please leave it in the comments and I would be happy to work on it. If you would like to support my writing and this blog, you may please send a donation through PayPal here.
I appreciate the time you spent in reading the blog and wish you happiness.