"How are you?"
It seems like a harmless enough question.
We ask each other that everyday. Yet how many people really want to hear the answer? If the person asking lives in your house, the true, heartfelt answer could be appreciated. If the question is asked on the street or grocery store the correct answer is "Fine, thanks. And you?" Period.
But what if the person asking is a friend, while you're in a public place? And what if the friend presses for a real answer? Do you tell her? Those are harder questions than you might think.
Here's the deal - if you tell someone how you really are, they may not be able to hear it. They might try to change your mind, or at least your answer. That feels pretty invalidating.
So, unless you're willing and able to hear the real answer, and to accept it, without challenging the other person, don't press for more than "Fine, thanks. And you?" What you're really saying is "I'm glad to see you, let's exchange the socially correct greetings.", which is a lovely thing to say and do. It's fine, really. You don't have to press for more, especially if you can't take the answer.