Your response to this everyday greeting can be a moment of honest self-reflection.
Posted in , Jul 19, 2019
I was raised to respond to the question, “How are you?” with a polite, respectful, “I’m fine, thank you, how are you?” There have been myriad times in my life when that habit has served me well, from launching conversations, making new acquaintances and just generally presenting myself as a positive, interested presence in social situations.
But sometimes, I’m not fine. Sometimes, I know the person asking doesn’t have time for a long chat. And sometimes, I don’t particularly feel like sharing a genuine answer to that question.
Whatever the circumstances of this ubiquitous greeting, though, I feel it’s important to take it as an opportunity to practice the authentic positivity I strive for every day. That’s why I try to take even a microsecond before responding to check in with myself and offer something approaching a true, genuine answer. Here are three of my favorites.
1) “I’m doing ok, thanks.”
If I’m having a tough day and “fine” feels inadequate, the softer, “ok” does two things for me. First, it gives me permission not to pretend I’m having a tip-top day. And second, it offers the person who asked me how I am an opportunity to inquire more—if they want to—with an, “Oh, why, is something going on?” I can take the conversation from there, or gently move on to another topic. And as a bonus, I’ve verbally reminded myself that no matter what is going on, I am and will ultimately be ok.
2) “I feel great—today I ______!”
When life gives me something to celebrate, I want to celebrate it! I don’t have to launch into a long story about something that’s going particularly well in my life, but if someone I know (this can be a bit much for a new friend) asks me how I am when things are looking up, it’s a wonderful feeling to let that person in on my joy. Usually, the positive thing I’m sharing is a seemingly small thing like, “I actually ate breakfast before leaving the house today,” “I finally started that online language app” or “My favorite show starts up again tonight.”
3) “You know what? I actually have no idea!”
This response has helped me center my mood on multiple occasions, especially when my thoughts are bouncing between in-the-moment stresses and big-picture gratitudes, like when a project I’m excited to work on feels temporarily overwhelming. The response is almost always greeted with a sympathetic smile or laugh, and it relieves me of the pressure of finding a genuine way to describe a complicated moment.
How do you respond to, “How are you?”