“How are you?”
An interesting question it is! I am sure most of us will agree that our response to this question is almost always an automatic one. Rarely do we blink an eye before we reply with an “I am good”, “I am okay” or “I am fine”. Even when we are feeling a bit low, our response to the said question might not indicate our actual state.
Likewise, we also don’t give much of thought when we ask (or say) ‘How are you’. It is just an extension of a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’, and it not a question. Most of the time we aren’t waiting for an answer.
I recall my son telling me. “when I am walking across campus and run into friends, they casually ask me how I am, my response is, ask me like you mean it and I will respond!”
As a teenager, I had a friend who used to ask me how I was doing, every time we met and without pausing to hear a response, she would go on about what was happening in her life. It bothered me for a good few years before I told her not to ask me how I was unless she was genuinely curious, as I did not want to a meaningless exchange of pleasantries with her.
Since then, I have been pretty conscious of the how are you’s I asked, as well as the ones I have responded to.
With my inner circle of friends, this question makes a world of a difference to my day. It could help ground myself and get present, bring me back to some feeling that I would have been avoiding or it would have me feel genuinely cared for. This question is not some passing phrase anymore.
It was a dear friend of mine, let’s call her Tiya, who brought depth and meaning to this question. When I ask her how she is, her responses are always varied and not the standard ones. There are times that she would pause before getting into a deep conversation on a particular topic in her life that needed airtime, trusting that I was all ears listening to her, helping her unpack things. And at other times she would refuse to respond to the question and request that we come back to it later as she wasn’t in the space to go deep. Likewise, when it was my turn to share, she would show such genuine interest and curiosity in my stories that I always walked away finding more meaning in my own stories, let alone feeling heard and seen.
What is essential is, rather than it being a meaningless set of questions and automatic responses, our words should drive conversations into unknown terrains that call for more authentic interactions.
How are you?
Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
December 29, 2017