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Don’t ask the insensitive question “How are you”?

Our life is a complex web of people whom we relate to on various levels for various things. These are the people we know and see in our daily or weekly activities. With these folks, we exchange pleasantries and sometimes discuss the events around us in a basic way and do not go much beyond these dimensions.

There is one question we ask these people typically and that is

How are you?

Although there is nothing wrong with the question but it leads to a one socially acceptable answer

I am fine.

According to Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the problem with the answer is often not the truth. She states that if you ask this question from people around you who are dealing with difficult situations in real life, it may seem insensitive. For herself, after the sudden death of her husband, this was a difficult question to answer. The typical response to this question hides the suffering of people when we know they are going through a lot. For anyone to ask this question from a person in trouble, communicates a lack of empathy which may upset people sometimes.

Sheryl Sandberg recommends that instead of using the same old insensitive way of greeting someone, the question should be adjusted slightly to: How are you today?

The reason for this adjustment is that when you ask a person this question, it implies that you have an understanding that life might be difficult for you and you are living it day to day. This sound much kinder question than the usual one we ask from people.

The route to success in a community rests in understanding the concept social interaction and providing support to people. We should be convinced that when we move in this direction, we will finally make progress and will find relevance and value in our community.

The article originally appeared on Business Insider. Image is taken from Sheryl FB profile here

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