Three words that we've all invariably said countless times throughout our lives; "how are you?". What's questionable is how often we've meant it, not to mention how often we've answered it honestly.
We're a strange bunch, us humans. It's not unusual for us to answer this short question by simply parroting it. Think about it, how many times have you responded to being asked "how are you?" by simply repeating the question to the person who asked you in the first place?
I get it. There are days that we just don't have the energy to hear someone's 'life story', and we're constantly worried that people aren't interested in hearing how we're really doing. But when we're living in a world of emotional isolation and being made to feel like we need to hide our broken hearts away because there's apparently such a thing as 'over-sharing', I think it's more important than ever that when we ask how someone is, we actually stop and wait for a genuine answer.
It's going to take a while for us to condition ourselves to say these three words with meaning and to respond to them with honesty, but I genuinely believe the pay-off will be magical. We wonder how anyone could possibly feel alone when they have friends like us to talk to when in reality we probably don't make it clear enough that they can talk to us.
Here's a little bit of homework for you:
Ask the next person you see "how are you?", and wait to hear their response. If they repeat the question or respond with a one-word answer that carries no weight, ask them again. If you do end up asking them again, switch it up a little, ask "how are you, really?".
Let's start making a change, one small step at a time.