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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

Comments

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on April 18, 2012:

I've been pretty busy lately, so I'm recycling one of my earlier poems. Hope you're enjoying National Poetry Month!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on February 18, 2012:

Aw, kms360, I appreciate that. Glad you could feel it.

kms360 on February 18, 2012:

I like that you can address and lasso those emotions that are so difficult to transpose into words. thank you.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on January 21, 2012:

Thanks for the comments, Angela. I'm glad you think so!

Angela Biggs from United Kingdom on January 19, 2012:

Lovely poem Victoria! I loved the lyrics and the emotions. And you got a lovely poem too :)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on December 14, 2011:

I'm thinking about this at this time of year. Don't ask me how I am....

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on November 16, 2011:

justateacher--Yes, they should have known. I don't think I'll ever be okay with that question. Only if it's heartfelt and I can tell they really want to know. I hate it as a pleasantry!

LaDena Campbell from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on November 15, 2011:

Mostly the response I got was "I'm sorry" and the person walking away. They were people I was (and still am) close to, but not family. But people who should have known not to ask that question...It;s been over a year now and I am still not okay with that question!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on November 15, 2011:

justateacher--You're so right in your comments. I've never liked "how are you?" but after my nephew died, I wanted to say, "How the hell do you think I am?" which correlates the response you started answering to. I think you're awesome for voicing that. Were these people you were close to? I'm curious to how they responded. When people ask me how I am, I usually respond "too soon to tell" or "Is that a rhetorical question?" or I just say hi or morning to them.

The last thing..so sorry for your loss. Anyone who lost their mother--I would never say How are you? I can't imagine being okay about that question when my own mother passes away. Thanks for your great comments.

LaDena Campbell from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on November 15, 2011:

When my mother passed away, and then a few months later her brother, and my favorite uncle also passed I hated the question "How are you?" because, like you said, it is more of a "pleasantry" than from wanting the real answer. I became so frustrated that I finally started answering how I really was "Two of my favorite people just died and I won't be able to call them or talk to them or visit them again...I won't be able to tell them about the newest grandchild on the way...I want to sit and bawl all day and sometimes even want to crawl into the grave with them....now - how are you?"

That stopped that question pretty quickly...

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on October 02, 2011:

Thanks, lyns. I do appreciate that.

lyns from USA on October 01, 2011:

Love it thanks for sharing I enjoyed this article it is so true. I graded it accordingly.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on October 01, 2011:

sweethearts--good points! Sometimes I don't answer either, and I, too, don't think they notice. Enjoyed your comments. Thanks for reading.

sweethearts2 from Northwest Indiana on October 01, 2011:

Everyday I'm asked "HAY" and then not given the time to answer before they're off on a tangent or the another purpose for our conversation. Unless it's a true friend I don't even answer and I don't even think they realize their question goes unanswered. Or, sometimes they answer it themselves by saying, "you're looking good." There you go, I didn't know I was doing well or good. Thanks for letting me know.

Thanks for allowing us to let you know how we all are doing. Hugs to you

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 29, 2011:

And thank you, Shane! Have a great week, too. And I sure would like to "expect miracles"!!!!!

Shane Belceto from WA USA on September 29, 2011:

So very welcome thank you for creating, have a special week.

~Expect Miracles

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 28, 2011:

Thank you, jami! You make me feel so good. Thanks for pushing all those buttoms. And thanks for saying I resemble Emily in her writing. I take that as a great compliment.

sherideem--glad you stopped by. Thanks for reading and commenting!!

sherideem on September 28, 2011:

Very good hub to read! Thanks for a nice opinion.

jami l. pereira on September 28, 2011:

I voted up all the way across the board ! lol i thought this had moments of being useful ,and moments that it could be funny as well as all the others ...so i had to push ALL of the buttons ..thank you for sharing this read ! :) awesome ! I loved it ,and yea , you do resemble emily in the way you write ..it is very Lovely :)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 27, 2011:

I know what you mean, Darrel. Sometimes I want to say something similar to the sample response you wrote. Your comments are right on the mark. Thanks for your wonderful comments.

Darrel Day from Iowa on September 27, 2011:

Victoria, you could not have been more right here. The words that make you cringe do the same for me. I often wonder if they really wan to know. Most it seems do not. Adding to your interesting write would be the "After they ask" scenario. You answer with a "well, actually, I am not doing worth damn. My job doesn't pay enough and my kids are bored and the wife/husband is wanting 10 things done at once and, and, and...." Just an example, not my life at all, but the point is made in saying this. They look at you, say "I am sorry, wish I could help" and along comes the OMG, because now your mind is screaming "do they really mean that? Do they truly wish to help????" Ahhh, the "insanity" goes on and on.

Loved the write and you wrote a beautiful poem that speaks in volume to the inside of the mind. Thank you for sharing this. Always, Darrel

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 26, 2011:

yes, naturalsolutions, "HOw are you?" CAN mean a lot when the person saying it really means it instead of using it as a greeting. If they say that phrase, they should be ready to listen, but most say it carelessly, and what do they want for an answer? "Fine" is what I suspect. Thanks for coming by for a second read!

naturalsolutions on September 26, 2011:

Sorry for my importunate, but I really want to read your hub once more.

In just a single question how are you? It brings a lot of meaning and also showing a strong care.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 26, 2011:

Shane, you're exactly right. You said it perfectly. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Shane Belceto from WA USA on September 26, 2011:

Well said and full of honesty. I think yes thoese who choose to ask should be willing and prepared to hear the truth and thosed asked to tell the truth and not just the Ok or fine as you said. Good HUB thank YOU hugs.

~Expect Miracles

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 20, 2011:

Well-said, SilentReed. And beautifully said. Also very accurate. Thanks for your comments.

SilentReed from Philippines on September 20, 2011:

Some people find themselves in an awkward situation unsure of what to say,afraid of causing more discomfort or ill at ease to show emotion.They retreat to the safety of proper etiquette.They fail to realize that in their hour of grief,those who mourn their love ones do not remember nor care what words were said in condolence but find solace in the empathy of a comforting word,an assuring hand or a warm hug. Even those words "How are you" if said with all sincerity and kindness.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 19, 2011:

Hmmm... Cutters...I'll have to check out that song....

Natural Solution--nice comments! thanks!

ktrapp--You express exactly what I think and feel about the phrase--and when to press a little further when you really want to know. Thanks for the compliment on the poem, too!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 19, 2011:

Hmmm... Cutters...I'll have to check out that song....

Natural Solution--nice comments! thanks!

ktrapp--You express exactly what I think and feel about the phrase--and when to press a little further when you really want to know. Thanks for the compliment on the poem, too!

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on September 19, 2011:

You definitely have a passionate point of view about the "how are you" greeting. I tend to feel the same about it, but do try to pass it off as a pleasantry that our culture uses.

As for myself, I try to only use that particular phrase when I do in fact really care and have time to hear the answer. When I do ask, all the non-verbal clues oftentimes give me the true answer as the word "fine" or "ok" rolls off my friends' tongues. And then I say something to the effect, "Are you sure," or "It doesn't seem like it," or "No, I mean really how are you. It seems like something is wrong" and I cannot tell you how many people open up or break down as they begin talking.

Your poem is great too. It flows so nicely and makes your point so well.

naturalsolutions on September 18, 2011:

What a perfect word from a sorrowful and lonely heart. I feel the emotion on each line, awesome hub.

Cutters from South Carolina on September 18, 2011:

Hello again I was Hub hopping and I saw people talking about a song and I thought of you and this Hub. Mouth and MacNeal - "How do You Do." Check it out

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 18, 2011:

Lord--

You are right--I do have lots of feelings that must go on paper. I've gotta do something with them! Thanks for all your kind words. Very insightful, too. Good to hear from you again.

Joseph De Cross from New York on September 18, 2011:

disregard the last comment plz!

Hi Victoria,

I've been following you every now and then..and I discover lots of feelings in you that have to be put out on paper...like you said. Every day we face a new world since we wake up and watch the news. Seems that nowadays we are pretty sensitive to anything that passes us by. We are what we came from and we will be the way we want to be. We all are special and Unique. We were born out of love and raised to show love and receive love. Thanks Victoria! As always, you touched people's emotions and that means a lot for all of us here at HP. Gracias. Voted up and beautiful.

LORD

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 18, 2011:

Glad to see you're human,Sunshine. We've needed this rain; we're getting a nice good soaking. Hope you get some soon.

And thanks, Vinod!Glad you think so!

Vinod Madhok from New Delhi, India on September 18, 2011:

Beautiful!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on September 17, 2011:

Yes Victoria even sunshine has non-sunshine days but she manages to always find a bright spot on a dark day:) Orlando has lots of sunshine today...I'd love some rain. Send some my way! xo

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 17, 2011:

Sunshine--are you ever in a "non-sunshine" mood? haha. I'm sure you are. We all have our moments, huh? Thanks so much for your comments. And all the votes! By the way, it's raining here. Any sunshine there? We need it, though. Had a very dry summer. See you!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 17, 2011:

DaddyKnowsBest--Thanks for commenting. I'll have to have a look at yours!

Cutters--I know! It really makes you think about how often we hear that phrase! And most people don't stop to listen.

thoughts220--I don't mind, either, those who really want to hear. But once it started bothering me inside to hear it so much, I started catching myself before I would say it. I never had said it a lot anyway, but now I am more guarded. I'm glad you like that line you quoted. When I read it, I thought, "That sounds nice," and then got a little thrill when it hit me that, yeah, I wrote that. haha. Thanks for noticing.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on September 17, 2011:

Hi Victoria! You hit home with this one!! Wow, how many times I wanted to give the TRUE answer to this question but I never do UNLESS I really knew the person and I would ramble away until we were both in tears from laughing AND I was in a non-sunshine mood prior to them asking! I LOVE this hub! Superb!!! Voted across the board my friend :))

thoughts220 from India on September 16, 2011:

Something that went straight to my heart. I can relate to the feeling. Even though, I myself am one of the users of this phrase, there are times when the same question invokes an equally harsh reply from me. Its not being rude, its just the frustration of a mindless phrase spoken for the mere sake of it, carrying no meaning or goodwill as such.

On the other hand, there are people who actually will sit down and talk with you, hear your heart out and get a detailed answer reagrding your well being. I don't mind those people saying the phrase.

"Smile at me, simply wave or hug as you are leaving--" - This was my favourite line.

Cutters from South Carolina on September 16, 2011:

You know it after reading this Hub I came to realize that i am more aware of how many people ask me how I am. I actually started to go in full detail of an issue a I am having and the person just kept walking. Why ask if you don't care? Sigh people are strange funny creatures!

Daddy Knows Best from Nash-Vegas on September 16, 2011:

Great Job! my Hub for today touches on your viewpoints within the poem. I hope you'll come over for a look see. Again, Thanks for posting this.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 16, 2011:

Thanks, sh (interesting name). :-) Yes, overused, meaningless, just a greeting. It's just always bothered me, especially during times of being really down, particularly after a death in my family. I know people mean well, but they just don't think about it. Thanks for your comments!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 15, 2011:

Lyn--Great response! I have heard similar words to describe the letters F-I-N-E. I have used the question, "How are you, really?" as have friends who really wanted to know the same from me. Thanks for the votes!

Lyn.Stewart from Auckland, New Zealand on September 15, 2011:

when one of my friends says the obligitory Fine statement I stop and ask so would that be ...

Fricked Insecure Neurotic and Emotional

or

Fricken Incapable of Normal Emotions

I then ask so how are you really? ... and yes I do want to know. those that accept the word fine don't truly want to know how we are and everyone knows it is an automatic response ... Only those who really care will ask again so how are you really or something.

Loved this ... voted up and awesome

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 15, 2011:

You're funny, Epi! I do think that people mean well when they ask "How are you?" But I would rather just get a hello and leave it at that, unless they really want to know! :-) Yes, I have heard others (maybe it was you--haha) comment before about the "no problem" response, when a "thank you" or "my pleasure" would be much more appropriate and meaningful.

Thanks for your compliment about my writing, and even more so about my "style and panache," "a wit and a charm," and the fact that you "dig an amazing chick" like me. That's almost too much--I think I'm blushing.

Lovely, lovely comments--and I thank you....

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 15, 2011:

LuckyCats, I would love to hear your story about Lucky. I have never had an animal live to 25 years. I can't imagine the loss of such a little buddy...companion. I enjoy your writing, too, and feel it's been too long since I've made my way over to your hubs. I feel the need to do that very soon. Thanks for the compliments and comments. Hope to see you again soon!

epigramman on September 15, 2011:

...lol lol - whoops an inglorious faux pas on my part - lol but when most people ask that question I think they mean well ..... the pet peeve I have is with the saying or phrase - No problem - especially when someone does something for you and they say instead of thank you or my pleasure - they say - no problem

....well this is never any problem with your writing my friend - you have loads of style and panache to go with it - and a wit and a charm too , always a pleasure to arrive here on your scene and dig an amazing chick like you - lol lol

lake erie time ontario canada 3:59pm

epigramman on September 15, 2011:

...well Victoria - how are you today?

Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on September 15, 2011:

Victoria...one day I hope to write a hub about how I came by the name Lucky Cats. In summary; I once shared my life w/my kitty, Lucky, who lived to be 25 years old. She was such a huge and long lived part of my experiences for so long and I loved her so much that I have included her name, in memory, in so many ways...license plates said Luki Cat..and Luci Ka (couldn't get Luky Cat)...and in a dozen different ways; I honor her every day; our kitty grave yard(s) bear the name "Lucky's Garden," and so on. Always enjoy reading your writing...always so very good!!!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 15, 2011:

Bellawritter--Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Movie Master--Yes, so true when grief is involved. Good to see you again!

acatenna--Glad you found me? I'm honored! Looks like you write poetry, too. I looked at your profile. I think I'll have to check you out!

Poetic Fool--Always a pleasure to see you and read your comments. You're very insightful, and your comments mean a lot!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 14, 2011:

Lucky Cats, you write such detailed, insightful comments. And I do appreciate it. I think you're right in that maybe we should go back to "Greetings." No sentiment, just a greeting. Let's reserve "How are you?" for what it is--when we really want to know what someone is feeling and going through.

And yeah, I try to use pics of cats whenever I can. I don't know if you can notice, but I changed the picture since you commented to pics of my own cats. I'm working on replacing all my photos to all original or ones that I'm sure have no copyright. Just trying to make sure. Thanks so much for commenting. I respect what you say, Lucky Cats.And how did you get that name?

Poetic Fool on September 14, 2011:

Victoria, this is something a lot of us have given thought to. Why ask, if you're not really interested in the answer, right? It's such a cultural thing, a colloquialism for hi, I think.

People, at least in the west, have isolated themselves so much and become islands that we wouldn't know what to do if someone gave a real answer to that question. You poem is a welcome call to get past all that. Thanks for sharing.

acaetnna from Guildford on September 14, 2011:

Great work, awesome - I am SO pleased I found you!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on September 14, 2011:

Hi Victoria, so thought provoking and I agree, 'how are you' is just totally unnecessary for lots of reasons.

I agree with Fennelseed, where grief is involved you just don't want to hear the question.

Great hub and I love the poem.

Erica Sanchez from California on September 14, 2011:

Very great hub. Interesting outlook on the typical "How are you" question. Thanks for sharing!

bella

Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on September 14, 2011:

Hi there, Victoria...yes, it seems so, doesn't it? The same thing can be said for "have a nice day." It seems we utter these pleasantries so easily when we really do not have the time to share with the person to whom we asked the question 'how are you?' It's taken the place of 'greetings.' Maybe we should go back to that word..there is no suggested sentiment other than an acknowledgement that we are seeing another and recognize their existence.

I can relate to this hub because I feel we've lost our ability, desire or even wish to empathize w/our fellow humans (and animals!!). We walk, as if in a shell, protected and guarded...projecting our "selves" or the person we'd like to be....keeping up a facade...maybe for protection? I don't know for sure but, I think it is almost a universal behavior, now.

Excellent hub, Victoria...great poetry, introduction and , of course, picture of kittens!!!

UP Useful, Interesting, Awesome!!!! And insightful!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 14, 2011:

Moneycop--yes, I think, too, that some people feel they have to ask.

vinaya--good to see you again. I'm glad you like the backround. I've been trying to include more of that with my poetry.

Thank you both for your comments.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on September 13, 2011:

I love the way you give a background story for your poem. Your poetry is like life, pleasantries sprinkled here, there, everywhere.

moneycop from JABALPUR on September 13, 2011:

great thinking..even i don't prefer some one asking how am i...i feel some think is incomplete

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 13, 2011:

Yes, Fennelseed, I don't like to have to lie and say that I'm fine when I'm not. And I also don't want to say, "I'm really depressed, thanks." I'd rather not be asked unless it's by someone who really cares and wants to know. Your experience is a perfect illustration of how the phrase can do more harm than good when we have no idea of what that person is feeling. I love your comments your votes. Thank you.

Annie Fenn from Australia on September 13, 2011:

I know where you are coming from and I have stopped asking that question myself in recent times for most of the reasons you have raised here. When grief is involved this very question does evoke resentment because I know the asker hasn't got the time or interest in sitting down with me and listening to how I am really feeling. And the standard " I'm okay thanks" is lying. A few months ago I asked this question of a customer service person in a medical environment, the young man responded by saying "Well lady on a scale of one to ten, currently I'm about at the four level", I felt shocked and then had nowhere to go with any small talk. This response coupled with my own personal circumstances, has led me to feel how you do here.

Great writing, thanks for sharing, my votes to you.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 13, 2011:

Sorry about your losses, Hear Me. I can relate. This is how I felt. Thanks for reading and complimenting me on my writing. That means a lot.

Hear Me from Somewhere in Florida on September 13, 2011:

Having gone through the passing of close family over the past few years, your words ring true. Good writing.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on September 13, 2011:

I think you're both right. Cutters, thanks for saying the poem is beautiful. And yes, "hollow" is a good way to describe how "How are you?" feels sometimes.

femme...Like Cutters, you're right in saying that if someone really is sincerely asking, it can be VERY healing. Ever notice that the sincere sounding "How are you?" emphasizes the second word in the phrase? "How ARE you?"

I think most of us can usually tell when someone really wants to know how we're doing. Thanks for the comments, friends.

femmeflashpoint on September 13, 2011:

Everything you said is true and understandable. If folks don't have the time to hear how someone actually 'is', they shouldn't ask. But, if they DO have the time and ask, sincerely wanting to know the answer ... it's some of the best care in the world for a broken heart. :)

Cutters from South Carolina on September 13, 2011:

What a beautiful POEM, I also have felt that way. That saying always felt hollow to me. When I ask it I take the time to sit and listen. Thank you for sharing! Voted up