“How are you?”
We ask this question of each other all the time. Whether we mean it is a question that will have to wait for another day. Today, I’m more interested in talking about our answers.
Maybe it’s because we suspect that many who ask this question are just being polite and don’t really care about the answer, but we’ve stopped being honest when asked.
That seems to be the universal response. The word “fine” isn’t necessarily a bad one. It’s meant to mean that things are satisfactory or even fairly good, but that’s not how most of us use it. Saying you are “fine” is a brush off. It’s a way of saying “Well, since you don’t really want to know, I’m not really going to tell you.”
So, why the rant today?
Living authentically, flying our freak flag is about sharing more of ourselves with the world. Authenticity attracts people and opportunity to you, but authenticity isn’t a light switch to be turned on and off based on our comfort level.
I realized recently that I wasn’t being terribly authentic in many of my conversations with people. I’m lucky to have a great network of peers and friends who want to be very supportive. When talking to them, they would ask me how things were going. After all, I am trying to build a business at the same time that my wife is also building a business. No steady paychecks are at our house. It’s hard. The past nine months have been the hardest work of my life and getting this far hasn’t been easy. There have been times where I needed help, and other times when I needed a pep talk.
But, I wasn’t getting what I needed because when asked how things were going I’d say, “I’m really busy.”
What does that even mean? Everyone is busy. You can be busy doing nothing. You can be busy making money and you can be busy losing money. Busy is another way of saying “fine.” I had the mistaken notion that I needed to put up a false front to the world that things were great. That somehow, if I kept telling everyone that business was fine and that I was really busy, that it would be better for both of us. But, it wasn’t. All that was happening was that I was missing the opportunity to have really meaningful conversations.
So, I started telling the truth. Now, when people ask me how I’m doing, I tell them that I love the work I’m doing, but that building a business is one of the hardest things I have ever done. And, I tell them that I wouldn’t be making it without the help and support of my network.
You know what happens when I do this? People ask me more questions. Then, they ask how they can help.
Being more honest and authentic when answering this questions has been good for me personally and for my business.
What about you? When asked this question, do you hide what you’re going through, or do you use it as a chance to invite the other person into a real conversation? I love it when someone replies to this question by saying, “things are great!” I ask them to tell me about it and I usually end up feeling inspired by what I hear. It is a gift.
Being more authentic and open in our interactions with others is a powerful way to build and deepen relationships. But, it requires some courage and a willingness to be vulnerable at times. As a disclaimer, I’m not suggesting that you use this post as an opportunity to start dumping your life story on any stranger who asks how you are. Keep your initial response to the question short and real. If the person who asked really cares, they’ll ask another question. If not, move on with your day.
Try it. You will be surprised by what happens next.
Great post. Made me think of the line from “The Italian Job” where Donald Sutherland says that fine stands for: freaked-out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. Too true. The word “fine” is a strong shield/barrier that we usually drag out in the moments we can least afford to use it.
I came across this post from a tweet and LOVED it! I think we often think that we are bothering people by saying what’s really going on, but you have found the positive in having a REAL conversation and being honest! Not a new concept, certainly, but one we tend to ignore in that “how are you” situation. I also have to share a tidbit on the “fine.” I worked with a lovely woman years ago who reminded me of Audrey Hepburn. She was very sweet, and soft spoken and kind. And she floored me one day when she told me that when she says “FINE” she actually means f*****d up, insecure, neurotic and emotional. So every since then, I have thought of that and only use the word when I’m truly feeling that way!