How to respond to “How are you?”

“How are you” is considered a polite question to ask in almost every situation. When you have migraine, it can be difficult to answer in a socially appropriate way. Most of us don't want to lie, but we also know that the person probably doesn't want to hear the honest answer. Even "OK" often doesn't seem like the right response.

With many years of practice, I've come up with some standard answers. Which one I use depends on how I feel physically, if I'm mentally alert and able to engage in conversation, and who I’m talking to. The pattern is usually the same – a vague initial response followed by a specific question of the other person. People love to talk about themselves and will almost always answer direct questions. They rarely even notice that you didn’t really answer the question and have redirected the conversation back to them.

Here are some of my responses to “How are you?” and some useful deflecting questions.

With friends and family who genuinely want to hear the answer:
“I’m breathing.”
“I’m here.”
“I’m standing.”
“It’s been a tough day/week/month.”
“Terrible.” (Then I say, “But I don’t want to talk about it” or “Do you mind if I vent?”)
“I’m good today.”
“Do you really want to know?”

With work or social acquaintances or family members who don’t want to hear the truth:
“It’s been a week.”
“Today’s been alright.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing [Movie Title] next week.”

In a passing conversation at the dry cleaner or coffee shop:
“Oh, you know.”
“It’s been one of those days.”
“I’m ready to put my feet up and watch some TV.”

Deflecting questions:
“What are you up to?”
“What are you excited about these days?”
“What’s been the best part of your day/week/month?”
“What did you do today?”
“What’s the most interesting thing you learned last week?”
“What are you looking forward to this week?”

There are hundreds of ways to respond to “How are you?” How do you reply? Looking for more suggestions? See ChronicBabe founder Jenni Prokopy’s 100 responses to this question.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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