You ask just about everyone you meet "How are you?"—but it's pretty much the worst possible greeting out there, and it's time to stop, writes Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post. First of all, it can trap people in a "terrifying conversational vortex" along the lines of, "'Hi, how are you?' 'Fine, how are you?' 'Good, how are you?'" More importantly, it's a question that elicits about as honest an answer as, "'Does this [item of clothing] make me look fat?' 'Who’s the fairest of them all?' and 'Am I not a great, just emperor?'" You and whomever you're greeting might as well be "making friendly noises at each other," Petri writes.
At the top of Petri's list of of "Questions Whose Answer We Are Not Interested In Hearing," there are also "What's up?" and "How's it going?" Though, she writes, "'What’s up?' offers a slight advantage because some people respond, 'The sky!!!!!' or 'Infant mortality!' so you instantly know to remove those people from your social circle." So how do we end this awkward social protocol? Simply by taking on "a more realistic form of greeting ... without the pressure of opening every conversation with an outright lie—or at the very least a slight exaggeration." Petri's suggested replacement: "Hi! Say the word 'fine'!" Click for her full, hilarious, rant. (Read more conversation stories.)