Friday, August 28, 2009

How are you? No really, how are you?

"How are you." That's what the clerk asked, or I guess stated. How are you. Period. No question mark. No lilt in the voice. It begged not an answer, but rather the end of the conversation. Even worse, just as I was taking a breath to answer her supposed inquiry into my well-being, she said "Fine, thank you." Wait, I didn't even ask you yet! It wasn't like I was going to give her my life story or anything, but at least hang out for the answer. It made me think. Somewhere along the way "How are you?" has adapted to our society's me-centered lifestyle and dropped the upper part of the question mark to leave a dull period. It's lost its interrogative angle.

Everyone is waiting for a pat answer of "Fine, how are you?, or Great, thanks and you?! I'm completely guilty in this respect and have become conditioned to respond to the positive. But do you ever have the Pavlovian answer on the tip of your tongue and think ok, actually I'm not having the best day, but who wants to be a downer so I'm just gonna say I'm fine? Heaven forbid we tell anyone how we're actually doing. We've been conditioned to not get too personal. Keep up appearances I guess. It's like a game of Greeting Ping Pong. It's so much easier to lob a nice little volly back and forth and we really don't know how to return hard serves. So nobody actually plays. We're not being honest, because an honest answer isn't really expected.

Well I'm challenging Me. You. And Pavlov's dog to quit with the conditioned response. Ask how are you and dig beyond a "Fine, thank you". Now if we're to do this we're going to have to be ready for the response. The real response. Chances are not everybody's having a Fine,Thank-You day. Of course, not everyone will really want to tell you how they are doing seriously and that's completely ok. But the point is that you're intentionally inquiring into someone's life which gives you a chance to serve and to meet whatever needs that are outstanding in those folk's lives who are not having a Fine,Thank-You Day.

So when I ask, I'm really asking because I want to know. How are you?


  1. THANK YOU for seeing the need for looking beyond the standard "I'm fine." Yep. I've had my share of craptacular days, but I'll only give the "real" answer to those that I trust can handle what comes out of my mouth (i.e. those that can handle it when people are being real).

    It makes us nervous to think that people might say something and we won't know how to react, and we keep our bad times to ourselves because we are afraid of what people might think of us and how they might grownup, don't you think?? :-)

    So, Jenny. How are you?

  2. Yes, aren't we all such grown-ups? What happened to Lean on Me? Reminds me of that line from the Real World - Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being real. Maybe we shouldn't stop being polite, but let's at least learn about what folks are really dealing with and how we can be there for them through it.

    Why thank you for asking!! I actually am blessed to be doing more than fine right now and that's an honest answer,But keep asking :) I'm sure there will be days...most likely you will hear it or get a taste of it in my blog. Tend to write what I'm feeling sooner than I say it sometimes!