Everyone Says It, Only A Few Talk About It

A few years ago, my father was very ill and had to undergo brain surgery. It was emotionally a very difficult period for my family and me. Through out the ordeal, my colleagues at work and my friends were very supportive.

At the time though, there were two common questions I had to deal with frequently.
"How is your father doing?"
"How are you coping?"

I know that most people who asked those questions meant well. The painful truth was that my father wasn’t doing well. He had a progressive disease and every day it seem to get a little worse. Seeing my father suffer was oh so agonizing to watch. I felt empty. I felt angry. I felt alone. I had so many "Why Lord" questions. To my family, I put a steady front. They too were finding it difficult. I knew that I had to “pull it together” for their sake. Even though I have many friends, I could only tell how I actually felt to two of my closest friends. To everyone else, I tried to force a smile and mutter something far away from the how I actually felt.

Going back to those two questions, to some people, it was just their way of making small talk. For others it was getting an update on the latest news. The rest, I believe asked out of guinea concern. I still wonder what others would have thought about me had I told how I actually felt.

Anyway, my father came through the surgery. Little by little, he started going every day tasks he couldn’t do before. He was progressing well. At this stage, I gave everyone the same answer; the positive news.

May be you have not faced such a catastrophic situation. (I don’t wish upon anyone such misery.) However, there is one question that I know for sure that you have been asked at least once in your lifetime.

"How are you?" Again, used for just conversation sake, curiosity or actual concern. This question is generally following by "I am ok", "Fine that you" etc. What you if you feel really down and you are not ok. How would people react if you reply "I am not ok". Can you imagine going for an interview and giving such answer!

When faced with such questions, in my book there are two approaches of answering them. I am sure you didn’t give it much thought before. It all comes down to
The way you actually feel
What people want to hear (positive side!)

So how are you doing today? You don’t have to be fine ;-)

This was one of my thinking out loud posts. I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you say what people expect you to say? Or answer how you actually feel?

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Let it Flow said...

For me, it depends on who asks. Someone close and I'll give them the truth, someone I don't know well, I'll lie through words. My body language, though, is probably telling a different story.

I agree, we don't have to be fine every time someone asks! It's too bad so many think otherwise.

Erin said...

Good question.

And honestly...I'm one of those person's who never asks (unless it's been a really long time with a friend and I want the truth.)

I stopped asking long ago when I heard my mother rattle off this response: "Fine and you." Like how you say "You're welcome" after thank you. Without much thought. To be polite. But it's really cold in my opinion and not heartfelt at all.

For people that are IN my life (close friends, close family members) there is never a reason to ask. They will tell you. I always think that's a real indication of the strength of the relationship. My best friends KNOW how I'm doing because if there's good news I call, if there's bad news I call, and if things are going horribly they haven't talked to me in a while.

When people ask (as rude as this sounds) I just smile and ignore the question. Usually it's in passing, right? It doesn't matter what you say..because most people only want to hear, "Fine and you?"

When my therapist asks...I used to always respond with "Fine." Now I've moved on to "Okay or Good or Great even." It's just her way of starting up the session I know...but I really HATE that question. Maybe I'll tell her that tomorrow. :)

Enhance Life said...

@Let it flow: "It depends on who asks." Very very true.

@Erin: I am also one of those people, who tend to avoid the "how are you" or "how is your ..... doing". I do hope that people realize that and treat the same with me ;-)

Davina said...

This is a very good question. As I've gotten older it has become easier to be honest when I'm not feeling "okay". I may not say how "not okay" I am. But I will let them know that things could be better. When I ask someone else how they are, if their response is mediocre, I am likely to ask them what is up.

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