It's the most commonly asked question on the planet yet rarely gets a real answer. It's the most frequent conversation starter in the world but often does little to start a conversation.

"How are you?"

Rather than being a genuine question, it's often used as a greeting. And because it gets used so much, the askee doesn't receive it as a genuine question. So they just say "OK", "good" or "alright" regardless of how they feel.

Sometimes when a person is genuinely asking the question, the askee responds with their default answer. Have you ever had a doctor's appointment and the doctor asks "how are you?" and you respond "good", even though you clearly aren't otherwise you wouldn't be there?

I've had people who I've spoken to multiple times in a day still call me up and begin with "how are you"? I'm the same as I was 5 minutes ago. No update but I'll keep you posted!

Some people you see everyday and each morning begins with the same bland "how are you?" ritual. If you want some real interaction, try a trick I used.  I used to work in an office, and for a while instead of saying "how are you" first thing in the morning, I'd ask "how was your breakfast?". It would get the person thinking and actually responding. Interaction and conversation starts.

It's light conversation, but the person is now switched on for actual conversation. And if you ask "how are you?" now, you are more likely to get a real response.

Or you could ask one of our other conversation starters instead.  Visit the Awkward Silence shop to get a subscription.

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