Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How Are You?

How are you?

This question has always had too much meaning for me. It’s a greeting not a question wanting a real answer. It’s especially confusing on a day I don’t feel fine.

Answer: 1 I’m fine.

I just can’t say that when I’m not. I know no one’s taking a survey. I worry they’ll believe that I’m telling the truth.

Answer 2: I’m better than Thanksgiving Dinner at the school cafeteria.

I thought that kind of answer was entertaining and clever. It provided stress relief for me. As I matured I discovered it was alienating and stressful for others.

Answer 3: I am well.

This one walks the middle for me. It sounds like what people expect to hear and I take pleasure in using good grammar. To make it true I think of one part of me that is well. Each time I say it something interesting happens. I start to feel good all over.
—me strauss Letting me be

39 comments:

Trée said...

Liz, "The Song" is now live. Let me know what you think. I had great fun and only hope I've done justice to your incredible poetry. Peace.

toadman said...

I usually just answer back "Well, I'm not sure, how are you?"

This usually confuses people, which is pretty easy to do...

ME Strauss said...

Thanks Tree,
I'm over there looking at it in AWE as we speak. Thnak you.

ME Strauss said...

Hello toadmaster,
How was work today?

Now that's a simple answer. Why didn't I think of that? Because I over-think everything?? Yeah.

You're sure right about confusing people I do that by breathing sometimes I think.

smiles,
Liz

toadman said...

Work was....well...work. I move through the tasks assigned to me like a worker ant moves through the line carrying his portion of the days takings.

But when I leave for home...oh what a change comes over me! My ant-like shell falls away and I become human again!

ME Strauss said...

I'm glad to hear you get to be a human again. You make a nice human you know. We kind of like having the human you around here.

smiles,
Liz

Bluesky_Liz said...

You can only give so many answers to that question and you gotta be short with it. Be too long with it and people look at you like "erm..okaaaaaay...I didn't ask for a long story."

I just say I'm doing good. "And how are you?"

The other person just says, "Fine". We'd just smile until the liftdoor opens, which shouldn't be too long, if there's still some ways to go, we'll talk about the wheather.

The elevator ride would be too silent for these people if not for small talk.

Trée said...

Liz, about 10 years ago I did a small experiment. I was doing a lot of work on the phone at the time. Most everyone I was talking with started the phone conversation with "Hi, how are you?" Nothing more than SOP. No one was really looking for an answer.

Anywho, I decided when asked that question I would answer "Magnificent" and "Unstoppable" with energy in my voice.

I was shocked to learn that that small ourpouring of positive energy literally caused a similar reaction in the person I was talking with. Every one of them asked "Really," which opened the door for me to run down my gratitude list for the day.

Every since, I put up a white board at the central area of our office. On that board, each person has to stop, first thing in the morning, and write next to their initials, what they are grateful for that day. Hard not to feel good when you read that list every day.

Thanks for another excellent and thought-provoking post.

Peace. :-)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Liz,
Good to see you,
Yes these people do like their small talk. Funny they never stretch the question to "How are you feeling?" I guess that might stretch the answer too.

smiles,
Liz

ME Strauss said...

Tree,
I've done the first, but not the second part of what you do. I bet it works wonderfully for you and for everyone around you.

Somehow being a 6 ft. blonde female someone would find a reason that I was treading on their feelings. Stinky huh?

You're so fully of joy. I should have tagged you on that joy post.

smiles,
Liz

Bluesky_Liz said...

>> Funny they never stretch the question to "How are you feeling?" I guess that might stretch the answer too.

hm...I think maybe that's like getting a bit more personal, which probably isn't what they want.

ME Strauss said...

Yeah, Liz,
That's what I was thinking.
They might actually hear a real answer and then what would they do?

smiles,
Liz

easywriter said...

My Father always used to say if you have an hour or two I'll tell you. I simply say I'm fine.

Fine is a lovely word it answers most of those greeting type questions like how was your day? How are the kids? And so on and so forth.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Easy,
That's why everyone loves you and enjoys your company. And why they often find me not so easy. . . .
but my brain short circuits that word *fine* before it can come out of my mouth. Maybe it was too many years of acute chronic pain.
Just can't say fine when I'm not.

smiles,
Liz

The Hungry Writer said...

Answer three for me. You're right Liz. It does make me feel good to answer "I am well. And yourself?"

ME Strauss said...

Hi Hungry,
Go Sox!
I think it's a writer's answer for sure! I'm well too.
smiles,
Liz

Patry Francis said...

I have a co-worker who always answers,
"Wonderfully well, thank you for asking." At first, I loved it for the positive attitude it conveys. But after receiving the same answer daily for weeks on end, I cringe whenever I ask her.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Patry,
Good to see you. Darn I wish I could get over to read you.
Yeah I can see where it would feel like you were part of some celebrity's staged greeting. Yuk.

She might be worth writing about.

smiles,
Liz

Ned said...

Well, we already know how I deal with this question. The best thing is not to ask me.

I am not ready to commit to a status at present.

ME Strauss said...

Ned,
Could you have your people draw up a proposal for how you might be feeling and ask them to forward it to my people?
Thanks.
Liz

fineartist said...

Awesome post as always, and comments too.

I am one of those. I tell how I feel in the most positive way possible, at the time.

Usually, I am great, and you? Or, I’m a little harried, but hopeful, you?

ME Strauss said...

Hi Lori,
I can hear you saying that, "harried, but hopeful." You have to inspire such openness in your students.

I admire that.
smiles,
Liz

Mark Daniels said...

Liz:
I posted on a similar subject some months back. You might be interested in it. Here's the URL: http://markdaniels.blogspot.com/2005/07/thoughts-about-those-who-ask-how-are.html.

I really enjoy your blog!

Mark Daniels

ME Strauss said...

Hi Mark,
Yes I am interested in your take on this. I'll stop by in a few minutes to check it out. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by.

smiles,
liz

ME Strauss said...

I went to Mark Daniel's blog and read his article and brought this bit of it back with me:

Besides, there really is something to be said for maintaining relationships built on pleasantries. Who has the energy or the inclination required to have every friendship be composed of deep soul-to-soul honesty? It's not practical or possible.

Given that reality, it's probably okay that while not being dishonest with others, we not tell each other "how we are...really" every time we're asked.


He's got a point. Don't you think?

Mark Daniels said...

Liz:
Thanks for the props, as the hipsters say. When a talented writer likes something you write, it means a lot. I appreciate that.

God bless!

Mark

ME Strauss said...

Mark,
I feel so pleased. I figured you were too busy to stay around too long. How nice of you to stop back and look in again.
smiles,
Liz

Cheryl said...

I wonder if this is a cultural thing, or if I am personally just very aggravating.
Normal answers would be:

1. Oooh, there or thereabouts
2. On two legs, just
3. Fine-ish
4. Fine, as fine goes
5. Mustn't grumble
6. Ask me again when my brain's working

All followed by "And you?" of course - coz I might be a sandwich short of a picnic (ooh another answer), but I'm polite!

Jennifer said...

I'm okay - That's my answer to that question. It drives people nuts :) For me okay is a good state. Usually it means I'm not too stressed, but still busy. I'm not frustrated, but not totally calm--that basically life is ok and I'm not complaining.

For some reason though no one seems to know how to respond to 'okay'. I get more looks and questions :)

Don't say good and you throw a person for a loop :)

ME Strauss said...

Ah Cheryl, ahem, Cheryl,
Those are all answers that I would use at one point or another I think, but I'm not sure you could call all of them polite. :)

I won't tell your mother

smiles,
Liz

ME Strauss said...

Good morning Jennifer,
I think okay as word has lost someting ever since that bully awesome shoved it out of the way. These days okay doesn't really mean even fine does it? It sort of means adequate, which could mean less than fair--see what I mean?

smiles
Liz

zilla said...

William Glasser says "how are you?" is often the wrong question. He recommends "What have you been doing?" or "What are you going to do?" switching the focus from feeling to the activity that creates feeling.

As interesting as that sounds to me, I usually ask, "How are you?" I'm not big on pleasantries; I really want to know. If someone asks me, I tend to smile & say "Fine, thanks," which is sometimes a simple self-contradicting pleasantry.

Historically, "how are you" meant "how are your bowels?" I know you depend on me to point these fascinating facts out.

:-)

ME Strauss said...

Why Z, I didn't know. My bowels are fine today, thank you. In fact . . .

I do count on you to help me understand where such rituals come from. You know so much and so many, I'm beginning to think that you have lived several previous lives.

smiles,
Liz

Eric Mutta said...

I usually do my ultra-polite: "I am very well thank you. How are you?". About 98% of the time, that is the truth. When I'm not doing well, I have several:

*Still surviving.

*Hanging in there.

Then sometimes the joker in me demands humour and I go for:

*One with the force.

*All systems go.

*In the eye of the storm.

*Six feet tall and very bubbly.

The first and last one always produce an interesting reaction!

ME Strauss said...

Hi Eric,
Yours are just easy enough to understand that I bet they work well with your open disposition to make people feel at ease. Mine were a little too clever and made folks uncomfortable.

smiles,
Liz

garnet david said...

In Jewish culture it's considered taboo to say you're good when someone asks how you are. I never knew that, so I just thought my Jewish friends were always sick.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Garnet,
I've never heard of that either.
How interesting. I'm sure there is a tradition upon which that is based that is fascinating.

Thanks for mentioning that.

Good to see you, red man.:)
Liz

garnet david said...

It has to do with tempting fate. Saying you are well is presumptuous, implying that wellness should continue.

ME Strauss said...

Thank you Garnet, for bringing me the explanation. That makes total sense. I would not tempt fate expcept that fate seems not to pay attention to me anyway.
smiles,
Liz