Hi! How are you? We offer and hear this phrase so often it seems a rhetorical question. Whether passing a neighbor on the street or a co-worker in the hallway, the words are exchanged with little expectation of anything more than a one-word response.
When a client actually answered the question recently, I was caught off guard. Rather than breezing past the query, she paused for a moment then shared she was planning a trip to visit her mother, who was in failing health. She went on to say she was also making travel arrangements for the funeral of an uncle who was likely to pass away in the coming days. She then went on to explain that the persistent cold weather had caused the pipes to burst in her home as well as her family's country home. As she came to the end of her answer, she paused again and said, "Sorry, that is probably not what you were looking for."
In a way she was right: I asked the question without any expectation of an honest answer. But at the same time, I was grateful for the glimpse into what was happening in her life, and it informed our work together. Knowing her mind was whirling with the many details she needed to sort out, I did what I could to keep her body and mind in the present moment - if only for the hour we were together.
Our habitual surface-level response to inquiries about our well-being is developed early. At two years old, my daughter responds to questions about how she slept or how her day was with an automatic, "Good." While this may be the socially acceptable answer, we deny opportunities for meaningful connection at our own peril.
I can see countless examples of this in my own life. By insisting I was "fine" rather than accepting a stranger's help as I navigated a busy airport with bags and a babe in tow, I ended up with a tweaked wrist and sore back. On a deeper level, my refusal to admit when something was wrong has created tension in important relationships with those who can see past the pretense and sincerely want to help.
These patterns may be deeply ingrained, but when we recognize them, we have the opportunity to correct our course. While you probably don't need to share the details of your Aunt Helen's upcoming surgery with your barista, we are all surrounded by people who are able - and often glad - to help.
If you mention to an office mate that you are facing a personal challenge, they might go the extra mile on a collaborative project. If you let your yoga teacher know you have been up all night taking care of a sick kiddo, you may find yourself treated to an extra indulgent savasana assist. If you admit to your spouse that the cold you have been battling for TWO WEEKS is showing no sign of abatement, he may encourage you to take the Sunday afternoon nap that helps you get past it once and for all.
Being honest can be scary, but it might be just what you need. How can you be more honest today?