Don’t Ask Unless You Really Want to Know


We treat it like it weighs nothing, and only when the answer is not what we expected do we realize the gravity of it. Southern folk say, “Hi’re you?” and like the rest of us, all we really expect to hear is, “Fine”. And what exactly does that word really tell us?


Maybe it’s just me, but I’m forever getting a text, “How are you?” and most days, I have no idea how to respond. I feel so many things in the course of a day, so I guess I am supposed to kinda give a summary, like a Cliff’s Notes
version of the truthful answer? And, if I’m frozen in sadness, anxiety or overwhelm I wonder if they really want me to be honest or say, “OK”…which is a very open-ended word that means absolutely nothing.


How many times when someone asks you how you are, have you wanted to really tell them the God-awful true answer…”I’m really crappy,”  or “I’m a hot mess.” but you don’t know if they’re ready to hear what life is really feeling like at that moment? So, you hedge your bet that they didn’t really mean it, and say, “Fine”.


We all long to be heard, to have our feelings honored for the beautiful, complex, confusing things they are. Research has shown that human beings want nothing more than to be heard, valued and accepted. We want to tell each other the truthful answer, but it can’t fit into a Tweet or a square box that uses up a data plan.


And what will you do if you’re not prepared for an honest answer or you don’t have time to listen to the words waiting inside Pandora’s box?


The next time you text someone that generic, “How are you?”, stop and think about it. If you really want to know, be sure you have the time to really listen. Wait until you know you can honor what they might want to tell you, and up the odds that they’ll tell you the truth if you just pick up the phone so they can hear your sweet welcomed voice truly wanting the answer.


Perhaps we also need an internationally recognized scale with which to answer…1 is “I’m standing on the ledge right now”_______________________________10 says “Nirvana, baby, Nirvana.” And maybe 5 is really the true meaning of the word…”Fine”.

Donna Bailey, MS

Coach, Speaker, Writer and Expert in Dating and Relationships for “Grown-ups”

Donna’s Big RED Chair


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