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Don't Ask Me How I Am - How Are You? Poem

Tristeza, or Sadness

Tristeza, or Sadness

Is "How Are You?" a rhetorical question?

How are you? Those words form a phrase often heard but rarely meant, a mere pleasantry following a hello. How are you? If we really stopped to get the answer to that question, we would learn a lot more from an individual than “Fine” or “Okay,” which are the frequent responses. I have never liked hearing that tired phrase, and after my three-year-old nephew died, it became even more abhorrent. I mean--how am I supposed to feel after someone dies?

In the past, I have occasionally added the over-used “How are you?” after a hello or other greeting. Now, I avoid ever saying it, and I cringe when I hear it. My forced response is often, “I’m here” or “I’m tired,” avoiding the question of how I really am.

Sad? Hurting? Heartbroken? If someone really knew, would they even ask? Do they even want to know? Frankly, I don’t think that people should ever ask how someone else is unless they really want to know and are prepared to sit down and talk about what’s going on. We may not know what has been happening in the life of another, what unspoken tragedy, what ongoing pain, what nagging worry that won't stop to allow a person to say, "I'm fine!"

For the person who is hurting, "How are you?" can evoke an indignant response, at least inwardly. It has with me before, making me want to say, "How am I? Really? How the hell do you think I am? Do you really want to hear about it?" I realize that sounds harsh. I know that people are well-meaning and that "How are you?" is just a nicety, a phrase attached to a greeting, but that phrase has come to mean nothing more than the "Hello" that precedes it. Really, "How are you?" seems to be just a greeting, expecting either no response or one that is empty.

Maybe it's my own perception based on past experiences that makes me bristle upon hearing that phrase. Perhaps it's not fair of me to feel that way. But I can't seem to help it. "How are you?" should mean something. I do wish that people would think more before asking that seemingly innocent question, a question that I have learned to avoid. Don't ask me how I am.


Celebrate National Poetry Month in April!

Enjoy poetry in April as you write your own or read the poems of others. #18

Poem - Don't Ask Me How I Am

Say Hello, ask What’s up? even say Good Morning!

But please, don’t rush by, tell me hi,

and ask me how I’m doing.


How Are You? Wanna sit down?

Got the time today? I didn’t think so.

How am I? So much that I could say.


Smile at me, simply wave or hug as you are leaving--

But How Are You?

Empty words that really have no meaning.


How Are You? It changes; sometimes I can’t explain.

A Hi’s okay, but a How Are You

is hollow and inane.


You still can care, be quiet with me, walk with me, or sit

But pleasantries—I’m past all that—

How Are You? doesn’t get it.


Other Poems about Death and Moving On

  • Death Changes Everything - Poem
    Death changes everything. This is a poem I wrote about the changes that occur after death touches a person. In this case, the poem commemorates the feelings after my three year old nephew died.
  • Poem - Moving On After Death
    A poem about death and moving on. Others seem to be moving on. Why can't I?

© 2011 Victoria Lynn

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