Recently at a function (who the function says function anymore?), I asked a half-friend how they were. You know “How are you?” And she looked at me straight in the eye, and said, “I am suffering from terrible imposter syndrome, and I don’t feel validated by work but it’s probably because I have a chest infection that I can’t shake off and therefore my defences are weak.” And everyone else all around us went all Edvard Munch inside. You could hear them internally screaming, “This is not the script, why isn’t she saying she’s fine?”
And then my half-friend said to me ‘How are you?’ and I said, “Actually I am doing OK, finding that I can keep the anxiety under control even though my therapist has gone to Peru for six weeks.” All around us a black hole is ripping in the space-time continuum as panicked people quietly edge away from us. But we both feel better. We laugh knowingly. We’ve connected (we are full-friends now). It was fine.
This is what we are calling ‘When you take ‘How Are You’ Literally’. Yes we know what you are supposed to say. But what if instead you said ‘tired’, ‘lonely’ or ‘happy’? Anything but ‘fine’. Unless of course you are fine, in which case well done you (and we’re not sure we believe you but perhaps that says more about us than it does about you).
So if you are going to ask the question ‘How are you?’ then be prepared for an honest answer; don’t go all tilty-headed and bambi-eyed, take it straight on the chin. We are finding it increasingly impossible to hide behind the ‘fine’s.