Next to “I have read and agreed to the Terms and Conditions”, “I’m fine (sigh)” is the most often told lie in the English language. When I sense upset or illness, and hear someone say: “Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine.” The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention and, I must admit, I go ballistic (at least on the inside).
Why do we people do that????
When I ask someone, “How are you doing (or feeling)?” I actually want to know. I’m even possibly concerned. It’s not a rhetorical question – so it begs a response – and it is an open-ended question, which, as anyone who’s ever taken an exam knows, requires more than a one-word answer! It’s an essay question fer cryin’ out loud! I’m looking for details here. I really want to know how you are.
I’m sure that for some people, “How are you?” is generally nothing more than an icebreaker; filler, a throw away greeting. But, for me, if I ask a question I actually expect an answer and some level of conversation to follow! If I wasn’t truly interested or I wanted a one-word response, I would have just asked, “Are you okay?” See? That’s a simple Yes or NO kind of query. No conversation expected.
Oh, and when someone asks me how I am, I tend to think about it and then give an honest, considered answer… “Kinda off today. How about you?” “Feeling great thanks, you?” “I’m exhausted! It’s hard to sleep when it’s so hot. How are you handling the heat?” “I feel great, thanks. I think it may be contagious… wanna catch some?!”
I love to surprise and delight people with a short but honest answer. Lord knows it’s usually unexpected. And regardless of what my answer is, I look them right in the eyes – the ‘ole human connection in action.
Sometimes, if I’m having a particularly rough day (Yes, even Susie Sunshine has ‘em), I say so and follow it up with: “It’s gonna take some doing to turn this one around. Your asking me about it sure helps, though. Thanks!” And, at the other end of the FINE spectrum, if I am having a tough day AND feeling grumpy, I have been known to either ignore completely or do an instant mega emotional dump all over their annoying, phony self-serving question. But, thank you, that hardly ever happens.
My favorite response is, “If I were any better I’d be twins!” People always smile and comment when I say that. Even just saying it makes me feel great. It’s a really happy comment, isn’t it? And I’m all about sharing the joy.
And, when I respond with “AWESOME, thanks! How about you?”(Which, by the way is my usual response.), I almost always get a big smile and a short, pleasant conversation begins…
Sure, I’ve occasionally gone down the path of throwaway question/throwaway answer. Really, who hasn’t? So, I guess I do understand at last a few of the reasons for the quick and simple “fine”. Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry or a bad mood – or if I’m really preoccupied, I don’t even hear the question, so I don’t answer at all. There are times when, hey, I’m not sure how I feel. And there are times that I simply don’t want to talk about it or it’s just none of their business. Regardless, if I respond with an “I’m FINE”, you can be pretty sure it’s a BIG LIE… I’m not!!!
When comedian, George Carlin asked someone, “How are you?” and was answered with “I’m fine”, he said: “No, YOU are not fine. Your hair is fine!”