We all say these three simple words…. yet, do we actually listen for the answer?
My husband is famous (at least in our family) for coming up with unique responses to this daily query. Last night, after a long double-header softball game in the humidity of Virginia, he had the cashier at WaWa laughing out loud when he responded “sweaty”, to her innocent “how are you?” question. He was indeed, terribly sweaty… and hot… and tired… but she just couldn’t contain her laughter when he answered. It made my night!
It also got me to thinking… have we become so accustomed to responding with a standard line or phrase when someone actually asks this question that we don’t take the time to actually consider the question? Am I really “fine”… or am I simply trying to move along to the next interaction with the next person in my day?
Yesterday was a rough day. I heard news of a young girl’s tragic death… was told of a follow-up traffic accident that had *just* happened… then read a very difficult and heartfelt announcement from a dear, sweet, friend. Yesterday was not the day for me to attempt responding in a truthful way to queries about my welfare… yet, for some reason, I decided to challenge myself to think more before passing “fine” or “good” along to others.
Responding in such a way wouldn’t be honest but it would be easier. Did I feel compelled to take the easier (read: safer) route or did I want to offer a more truthful response? Was it necessary to share the negative, sad, things that had happened in the day or was this my opportunity to make the day seem a little less ordinary, a little less rehearsed, and maybe a little more imaginative?
My husband easily comes up with great words to use when someone asks him “how are you?” Some of my favorites are “swell”… “peachy”… or even “ducky”. Each time, I’ve seen the other person pause, to take in this new and interesting piece of information. It’s really rather fascinating to watch.
It’s such a small thing, but I do believe that there are times when people are truly asking about our welfare. Maybe our eyes look sad… maybe we seem a little weary… or maybe it’s the other person who’s looking for a way to start a conversation. Have you noticed anything like this in your own day-to-day interactions with co-workers, friends, and family?
I’m not saying that every single person who politely comments “how are you?” needs a lengthy discussion as to the exact nature of your health at any given moment. I’m simply suggesting that we all pull out a thesaurus and find a few words that are “off the beaten path”, if you will.
Here are a few that I pulled from a cursory Google search on the word “fine”:
- Synonyms: agreeable, all right, alright, copacetic (also copasetic or copesetic), ducky, fine, good, hunky-dory, jake [slang], OK (or okay), palatable
- RelatedWords delectable, delicious, delightful, dreamy,felicitous, gratifying, nice, pleasant, pleasing, scrumptious,welcome; acceptable, adequate, decent, passable, tolerable
- Near Antonyms bad, deficient, inferior, lousy, poor, punk,substandard, unacceptable, wanting, wretched; mediocre,middling, second-class, second-rate
- Antonyms disagreeable, unsatisfactory
That’s a huge list from which to pull, but you get the idea… right? When we ask someone, “how are you?”, are we truly asking people about their welfare and waiting for an answer, or are we simply throwing words at people so they can go about their day? What might happen if we each take the time to listen to or to respond with a unique and genuinely thought-filled word?
I don’t believe that every conversation needs such thought-provoking scrutiny, but I wonder what might happen if we each put a little more effort into our every-day interactions with those around us. Would we make someone’s day and cause them to laugh out loud?
There are definitely worse ways to effect someone with whom we come in contact. Who knows… they may have really needed that smile. You just never know.
I wish you all a delightful day!