It is time to answer “How are you” with honesty

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How many times have you seen a friend, a relative, a loved one and said: “hi, how are you”, to which they answer “good, how are you” and you reply “I’m good thanks” before you start actually having a conversation. While this little back and forth has become the accepted way to start a conversation, it doesn’t make any sense and worse than that it may be a clear indicator that we are doing something wrong in our lives.

The reality is that there is a common belief today that it is not acceptable to not be okay. If you are too happy or too sad, you are an outlier and should be cast away. I have no doubt that if my mum won the lottery and I rang her and asked her how she was, there is a good chance she would reply “fine and you”. My mum always says “fine and you”. My mum does this because she is so incredibly caring that she hates talking about herself and wants to move the subject to her children straight away. However, it means that I never know when she is not OK. 

Sometimes halfway through a conversation, I can pick up on the truth and I will stop talking about the stuff that doesn’t matter and ask my mother, no, mum what is going on. From there she may tell me but I wonder how many times have I not picked up on those subtle indications, how many times has she suffered and I didn’t realize? If only there was some foolproof way to let others know that we are not OK.

There is. Being honest and being present. If we choose to mean every word we say instead of repeating lines like soap opera actors on day time television we will reveal to those that we love how we are actually feeling. What are we afraid of?

I am not saying that every time a coworker or someone working in a shop says “Hi, how are you?” that you open your heart there and then to people who don’t want the answer. To those, we can still follow the script. However, to your close friends and family, we owe them our honesty.

Telling our family the truth about how we are feeling from the outset has to be the chosen path. If we do this they may help us, they may not, but at least they are aware. It is said that the problem shared is a problem halved. If whatever is bothering you can be talked through with your mum, sister, aunt, uncle, whoever is close to you. You can find a solution.

Of course, it comes with a risk. The risk that we are open and honest with those who love us and that they will see us for who we really are. We have to take down the walls that we have built and show them our true selves. Perhaps all you want to do is make your mother proud and so you only ever show her your best. It is nice in theory but if it is not really you then what is the point. More importantly what is the cost?

If you can never be honest with your family how can you ever expect them to be honest with you? Even if you are not ok but you think you can solve it yourself if you don’t share your true feelings then how can you expect them to share theirs when they are suffering. You may be strong enough to shoulder your burdens but your actions are forcing them to do the same. 

The more we refuse to open up to those that we care about, the more they will refuse to open up to us. Instead of building these walls between the ones we care about we must be open and allow others in to help with our problems. It starts by answer a simple question: How are you?