Look, girlfriend of colleague’s boyfriend’s colleague or whoever you are, when I ask you “how are you?” I do not literally mean that I want to know the history of your infections and viruses over the holidays.
Seriously. Didn’t you get the memo? Didn’t you ever do English lessons in middle-school? This is what the very first conversation goes like, after they swap names, remember:
Ali. How are you?
Reza. I’m fine, thank you. How are you?
Ah yes. I forgot, English is your mother tongue, so you probably never did do that lesson. Still. Surely you should know by now, that when people, especially people whom you don’t know that well and perhaps meet every four months or so, ask you “How are you?”, they really are not interested in your health issues, they do not want to hear “actually, I’ve been feeling pretty crappy since I got that virus over blah blah blah.” They just want to get the social ball rolling, as it were.
The old-fashioned English version is better, I think, to avoid these unwanted health info:
“How do you do?”
The French version is even better at showing how totally uninterested you are:
“It goes?” (ca va?”)