How Are You?

“How are you?” This question of greeting is so common as to require no other explanation. For many, it rolls off our lips almost subconsciously following any greeting to someone who is at least an acquaintance. Though we ask it of strangers at times also.

I could write a whole entry on how this phrase is often uttered without the inquirer having any real interest in the answer. It is just a common pleasantry we have become accustom to. The answer, if even listened to intently, rarely draws more than the cursory response feigning concern as to their well-being. If the response is negative, we offer simple condolences or words of support. But we are rarely asking with the intent of helping them feel any differently then they already do. If it is positive, we offer congratulations or celebration for their current positive outlook on their situation. The only real difference in the answers we get back is that a positive answer surely holds no requirement to assuage those feelings. Negative replies only require a bit of understanding, acknowledgement, or compassion. It also does not require you to ‘fix’ how they feel.

But this entry is not about the question, but about our answers. When you are asked that question, how do you respond? Are you truthful about where your head is at? Or do you just say everything is fine because you don’t want to reveal the strife in your life? Do you deduce the question is somewhat rhetorical and give an easily accepted response? Or do you jump at the kind ear to unload all the woes or struggles you are currently wrestling with?

How we can truthfully answer that question on any given day is directly connected to our perspective. On some days, that seem more stressed or problematic than days we have had in the past, we are led to see today as a less happy time than previous days by comparison. Many people seem to choose this as the contrast to how they feel currently. We may also choose to see all the days of the past that were so much harder and trying, choosing a comparison that makes our today seem bright and cheerful.

My standard response is always a positive reply about how happy, lucky, and blessed I am. I compare every day to the worst days of my past. When things were the darkest, scariest, and most chaotic in my life. This gives every day a perspective of being such a positive time. It does not mean that I do not deal with setbacks, heartbreak, loss, fear, and all manner of daily life issues in my days, just like everyone else. But I do not allow them to become larger than they are. They are nothing but buzzing gnats when compared to the vultures aloft at the hardest times.

If you can choose the right perspective, every day that lies ahead can be seen in a positive and restorative light. On my worst days, my response may well be, “Well, nobody is shooting at me today!” This leaves people a little dismayed as how to continue the conversation and I recognize that this response is a little out of left field. But I say it as a conscious reminder to myself how much worse my day could be, and in that frame of reference, all my days are a delight.

The effects of perspective go well beyond how we reply to a common social question. It can impact how we see everything around us. I would love to use the “glass half full” analogy, but as a Taoist it is not the amount of water that is important but the glass itself. Without it, the water would be neither half full nor half empty. Suffice it to say, that if you see yourself for how far you have come and rejoice in your growth, happy should be much easier. If you can only see yourself for how far you have yet to go, misery will always be a close friend.blessings

2 Responses to “How Are You?”
  1. However we respond, how many of us follow our response with, “Thank you for asking”? We usually follow up with something like, “And you?” because it’s not only somewhat expected, but it quickly shifts the focus from us. But you’re correct in stating that it is a something we ask without true concern in 99% of the time we ask it.

    • Brad Osborne says:

      You make a great point. I am definitely guilty of the “and you?” response. I have always thought of it as a simple and easy way to show the same interest in their well-being that they have shown in mine. Kind of a common courtesy thing. But your comment makes me realize that the deflection and shifting the focus off of myself is likely just as big a contributor to my response choice. Thanks for your valuable insight and comments!

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