Rhetorical Questions

“How are you?”.
Probably the most insincere question of all questions.
How often do we ask this without actually having the time for  the other to properly answer it?

I have, too often.
Let’s take my mum.
She is the kind of person who wouldn’t just say “Everything is fine”.
If you make the “mistake” to ask her how she is, she will take the opportunity to answer, trust me.
And really, once a while, this is completely fine.
I love how now I can speak to her as a grown up – woman to woman.
It feels great to not only ask for help anymore, but also supply with advice which I have learned within my adult life.

However, since life is busy, I hardly ever have the time, or rather the patience, to listen to her extended stories.

In the Netherlands it’s not very common that the waiter or cashier would ask you this question, but I have noticed within English speaking countries it does happen a lot.
Is it a culture thing?
Does it happen out of politeness?

Sometimes I wish I could answer ” No, I’m not good and this has been a really rough year”.
Probably tears and angry statements would follow.
Would they be polite enough to listen to my ramblings?
I don’t think their boss would approve.

“How are you?”  is a rhetorical questions.
Everyone knows the answer.
We are basically obliged to say “I’m good”.

But is that really possible living in a society like ours?
A society which is turning us into robots.
Not by machines, but by shutting down our emotions.

I think we should be more careful with asking the “How are you?” question.
And if you do want to, make sure you have the time and the patience to listen to the answer 🙂

19 thoughts on “Rhetorical Questions

  1. I have a bad habit….

    When they ask me how I am doing, I say, “I’m alive.”

    Usually they answer something like – “that’s better than the alternative”.

    I respond, “no, I don’t think so…..” which sends them into shock….

    Then they see my clerical collar – the shirt pastors sometimes where that confuses people because we look like catholic priests; and they get the idea. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am not entirely sure how the lutharans difference from the catholics. Expect for the purgatory, correct?

      I was raised as a catholic.
      So I always assumed I would end up in purgatory as my actions have not always been “good or correct”. But honestly, that place scares me the most 😰


      1. I don’t know if it’s a USA thing or not but it can be irritating. Most people just say fine because they don’t want to get into a lengthy conversation. And it’s considered polite here (in Texas) to always say “Hi. How are ya?”


  2. Great post.

    Depending on how northern england i am feeling my answer tends to be ‘grand as owt’ or ‘ champion’ . This really confuses southerners.

    On bad days my stock answer is ‘still here’, which seems to cover all the bases.

    I asked a colleague this question once, early in the morning in the kitchen at work and she burst into tears and told me I was the first person she had seen since getting a breast cancer diagnosis the day before. All I could do was hold her. But we then swapped mobile numbers and stayed in touch throughout her treatment and are now firm friends. She is back at work and has the all clear.
    Another colleague did the same for me when my wife had a similar diagnosis, melanoma this time. I am very lucky to work in a place where we look after each other. If someone asks that question there we know they are asking because they care and want to hear the answer.
    But I do not see the point of it in coffee shops etc. The person behind the counter might be great but doesn’t really want an honest answer.


    1. Oh wow. It’s amazing to hear that a simple question like that lead to a friendship! I hope she is ok now and your wive too!

      I hope to have colleagues like that one day again. This year I bursted into tears because of both my grandparents passing away in one week and then my friend was diagnosed with cancer.
      In all the meetings after with my manager, he told “well, at least you didn’t cry this time”.
      Thinking back at this, makes me angry. And I am so so happy that I have left those terrible people.


  3. Hi Andrea, how are you doing? 😛

    Rhetoric question aside, I could actually relate with this post. But I suppose pretty much like in the Netherland, it’s not common for people to ask this question in Indonesia too.

    Here, it’s even worse because people tend to ask things that are rather none of their business. Things like “what are you doing?” or “where are you going?” are pretty common to ask by strangers. So maybe it IS a culture thing. 😉


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