Have you ever noticed how the question “How are you?” has become almost a flippancy? Do you ask this question in anticipation of a genuine answer? What would you do if you received one? What would you do if, as happened to me once, someone told you they were doing “pretty damn terrible”?
Something I noticed while on a retreat with fellow loss parents shortly after Adrian’s death, is that instead of asking “How are you?” each morning, we asked instead, “How is your morning going? How did you sleep?” And while it seems like a minor thing, it made a difference.
It took the pressure off.
It gave us space for honesty.
Instead of “How are you?” being treated like a greeting, it became a genuine inquiry. And when someone said they hadn’t slept well, or they were feeling especially sad that day, it was acceptable, because we were really listening.
Imagine how supportive it would feel if more people were really listening.
And this is not only applicable for the bereaved, because we don’t carry a monopoly on bad times or bad days—this is something that happens to everyone.
So the next time you are tempted to use “How are you?” as a flippant greeting, maybe reconsider. Slow down. Focus on the human in front of you.
“How was your morning? I’m listening.”
Notes for the Support Team – Words Matter:
Original statement: How are you?
Rewritten: How was your morning? How is your day going?