Years ago, I was at a party and everyone was greeting each other with "Hi, how are you?" And most of the responses were "Fine, how are you?" or "Great!" or "I'm really good, and you?" I was standing next to a prominent actress who suddenly exclaimed to those of us near her, "Why don't people say how they're really feeling?"
Her bold honesty made me feel a visceral excitement. I loved that she said that out loud, and I thought to myself, "She's right! Most of the time people don't say how they're really feeling."
I think that a majority of us assume that if you're asked how you are, you're not going to sail into a "Let me tell you how miserable I am" response, because you know that:
a. Nobody wants to listen to a complainer.
b. There's nothing worse than getting stuck talking to a downer Debbie or a negative Ned.
But what if we responded to one another, if we felt so inclined, by not just saying the perfunctory "I'm good" or "fine," unless that's truly how we're feeling, but instead with something that was more honest and reflective of how we are really feeling. Here are some examples:
1. "I feel frustrated because I'm not connecting with friends lately in a meaningful way. I just can't do superficial anymore."
2. "I'd really love to be in a relationship, but it's hard to meet people. I don't want to end up alone."
3. "I feel so unhappy at my job, but I'm afraid to change."
4. "My kids are off to college, and I feel so old. It's kind of depressing."
5. "I've been drinking too much, and I think I might have a problem. I'm scared."
6. "I'm struggling in my marriage, and I'm not sure it's going to work out."
I'm not suggesting that you have to drop a "TMI" bomb on the first person that asks you how you are, but if someone you are close to and trust asks how you're doing, why not tell them the truth?
There's a difference between sharing how you're feeling and complaining. Telling someone what's really going on with you without dumping on them just to release your unhappiness is sharing what you're experiencing or might be conflicted over. You can ask their opinion, and they might have something helpful or illuminating to say to you. If you're willing to take their advice, then it's worth sharing. If you just want to hear yourself complain, however, don't bother.
As a life coach, people come to me and tell me how they are "really" feeling, because I'm a safe person for them to do that with. But I'm wondering if we had a more real and honest dialogue with one another, then maybe we could make some of the woes of the human condition less burdensome by problem solving together. I don't believe that anyone should have to suffer alone, and yet, far too often, people do keep their pain to themselves, which is unfortunate.
A good way to relieve your pain is by sharing it, and by doing that, you're acknowledging that you are feeling discomfort in your heart or soul. It takes courage to reveal how we're really feeling when we're not feeling so good and are willing to show our vulnerability, insecurities or fears.
It's also okay just to say "I'm not so good" when someone asks how you are. If they ask you "Why not?" you can decide if you want to explain or if you want to say "I don't really want to go into it." That person might say, "When you feel like talking, I'm here."
If you truly do feel "fine, good, great, wonderful, fantastic" or whatever positive thing you're feeling when someone asks you how you are, then good for you. Things must be going well. But if you respond that you're fine or good when you're really not, try and share how you're really feeling with someone else the next time you're asked, providing you feel comfortable with them. It means you're taking that step to feel better by openly looking at why you don't feel so good right now.
We all need someone to talk to, so whether it's a life coach, therapist, or someone you can trust, allow yourself to open up and share how you're really feeling, and try to refrain from saying the fake stuff.
Speaking from your heart is what matters the most. Don't be afraid to expose what each of us has in common: real feelings.
For more by Ora Nadrich, click here.
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