Imagine you see me in the hallway at work, or we run into each other at the grocery store, maybe we find ourselves standing next to each other in the food line at a networking event. I smile in greeting and say "Hi, how are you?"
And you answer something like: "Fine" or "I'm good" or "Doing okay, how are you?"
I can't help but think that kind of exchange is really a waste of breath. Mine and yours. But we do it all the time, don't we? You might have even done it already today. Two or three times in fact.
Why do we answer quickly and not stop to think about how we really feel in that moment? How much better would it be if my question was "How are you feeling today?" and your answer reflected what was actually happening inside of you, instead of a polite deflection back to me?
What if you were able to run through a mental list of descriptor words and choose one to represent what you were feeling in that moment and share that with me. I am feeling powerful. I am distressed. I feel guilty. I am jittery. I am afraid. Or I am hopeful.
Wouldn't it be awesome if we all were able to pause, think, search for a word that fits how we are feeling in the present moment and share it, every time we are asked?
Now that would be living life in the present, with intention and mindfulness.
So why don't we?
- It's easier to pretend, right? Just saying you are fine, when inside your world could be crashing down or cartwheeling away from you, is quicker and easier.
- Are we ever really sure if the person asking wants to know or is just being polite? Sometimes when I give an honest answer I end up feeling like a dork after I realize the person isn't really interested and now I just shared way too much information.
- It's scary sometimes isn't it? To acknowledge that life isn't going well. It's way easier to share the happy stuff --the 'I'm feeling great moments'---everyone understands when you say "I'm great." But when you say: "I'm scared." "I'm stressed." "I'm so confused." Those make people unsure and uncomfortable, especially when they were expecting an "I'm fine, how are you?" in return.
So most times we avoid saying how we really feel. We might actually even avoid thinking about how we really feel.
What if it were perfectly acceptable for you to say how you really felt every time you answered someone? What if we had the luxury of time to really listen to someone's answer, and to also dig deeper into the feeling just expressed? What if we had time to ask why?
I believe we would not only help ourselves by alleviating the burden we carry around inside ourselves, but we could help each other.
Feelings come from experiences. Sharing the experiences out loud, and honestly allows the individual sharing-- a chance to process through the situation-- to get in touch with their emotions, and with themselves. A listener then has the opportunity to be a sounding board, a source of new strength and support, and offer a much-needed new perspective. And they have the opportunity to learn from the person sharing.
In my ideal world people ask the question 'How are you (feeling)' because they genuinely want to know the answer. And people train themselves to give a thoughtful (and truthful) response in answer.
There is great power in a shared feeling -- whether it is a good or bad one. How often have you been uplifted simply by learning about someone else's joy? Or made aware of a situation or a previously unknown issue when someone shared their heartache? Increased empathy, sympathy, inspiration and understanding are just a few of the possible outcomes after someone answers a 'How are you' question with both thought and honesty. A real conversation can sometimes lead people to think: "If you can get through this thing that you are dealing with, then I can definitely get through what I am dealing with." "I am not alone." "You are not alone." "Life is awesome when things are truly going great." A real conversation may set someone on a new path.
To me that kind of honest sharing is powerful stuff.
How Are You Really Feeling? / The Question of the Week #23
And yes I really want to know right now in this present moment a word that describes how you are currently feeling. My challenge to you is to ask someone else how they are really feeling today. If it goes well for you, then ask again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Hey change has to start somewhere...
And to be honest, I'd really like to be asked how I am feeling. So, pretending that you did (just ask me that is), my answer is: I am feeling favorable.
Favorable: characterized by approval or support; positive; creating or winning favor; pleasing; affording advantage, opportunity, or convenience; advantageous; boding well.
And, thanks for asking.