I often meet an elderly woman during my morning walk. I don’t know her but we say hello. This morning she asked me how I was and I said: “I’m fine thank you. How are you?” To which she replied: “Carrying on”. She didn’t mean carrying-on as in flirtatious behavior! What she meant was: ‘I’m carrying on with the business of living……” It sounded rather sad to me.
As I continued my walk I began to think about various ways in which we answer a routine polite question: How are you doing? Do you think the people who ask us this question are really interested in how we’re doing? If we told them the truth would they believe us? Would they really care?
I remember an aging hypochondriac grumbling to me: “People ask me how I am. And when I start to tell them, they seem disinterested.” That’s because he insisted on giving people all the details of his many illnesses (some real, some imagined), complete with dosage of medication! I found this really hilarious and shared it with a friend. He told me to suggest that this gentleman answer an inquiry of how he was with a counter question: “How much do you want to know?”
My father often calls an elderly relative to ask how he’s doing. Much to my father’s amusement (disgust!) he gets regular updates on the man’s bowel movements!
Some people think that it’s tempting the Gods if you say, “I’m doing great.” I think they imagine that the moment the words leave their mouths, they’ll be struck by a great bolt of lightening. With some others you can see that they’re struggling with a lot of pain, but they’ll answer: “I’m doing fine”.
I think our response is determined by how well we know the other person and how comfortable we are with ourselves. Perhaps, we can find ways of being honest about our feelings without revealing too much: “I’m not doing too good today. But I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow.” “I’m on the top of the world and so grateful to feel this way.”
I’m sure there are several ways to answer this question.
So, dear reader, how are you doing?
May you be inspired – every day!
It is very interesting how people choose to answer the question. For the short answer to people I don’t know well I usually respond, “I’m good, thanks” meaning all is well, and for those I know a little better, I actually tell them what’s going on with me at the time, if I have time! Otherwise, if things are not as good as they could be, I respond similarly to the lady you see on your walks: “I’m hanging in there.” It’s funny that people ask the question but many times don’t really an honest answer.
Thanks, Adrienne. It does depend on our relationship with people. I guess people want to hear that we’re doing well – anything else might burden them!
Corinne~ Great post and I LOVE the picture. I have to admit I used to ask ‘how are you?’ all the time and , truth be told, it was simply because I was using common courtesy and sadly, I was one who did not much pay attention to the answer 🙁
Now, I hardly ever ask that (because it was a negative pattern of mine) Instead, I typically ask “What’s been the best part of your day so far?” or “What’s new and good?” I get all kinds of looks but it helps all of us give cause to reflect on the best of what life has to offer!
Claire Hegarty B
It seems when you ask many elderly people ‘how are you’ they give a list of ailments. I think they are scared and want to feel that people care. I also think many are lonely and it’s an excuse to chat. Where I live there are many old people and I chat to them on a daily basis and this seems to be a general thing. I don’t mind listening, when I have the time. When people ask me how I am, I usually say ‘great, thanks’ even when I am not. Those who know me well will know if I am telling the truth or not and delve further. That’s when I might elaborate a bit and they might be sorry they asked! As to the question today? I am grand and looking forward to a grand day!’
Thanks, Claire. Yes, I guess loneliness too has a bearing on how we answer that question. I’m glad that you make time to chat with the elderly – not always easy, but it makes their day!
My general answer is “fine, thank you, and you?” I also agree most people don’t really want to know – it’s jsut one of the social niceties taht people ask. So, when I want to know, really know, i ask in a different way. Something along the lines of “So tell me, how have you been lately?” Just that little change often gets a better response.
That’s a great way of putting it, Amy. One question to take care of the social niceties and one question to really find out.
I, too, have often thought of the phrase “how are you doing?” as a social pleasantry, the answer to which people really do not want to know. So, we just say “fine” or “great” and move on. You are right, though, about the depth of relationship we have with a person when we do ask this question – the closer we are, the more detailed answer I would expect to hear.
So, how am I today? 🙂 Sipping coffee, trying to wake up, looking forward to reading and writing today, not looking forward to cleaning! Lol!
How are you, Corinne?
Thanks, Martha. I’m doing great..catching up on answering all your lovely comments which I so appreciate!
I’m always honest when asked. However, the length of my answer depends on the person I’m talking with. Some have already gotten tired hearing that my blood pressure went low :P…or high :P…
As a nurse, “I’m fine” wouldn’t suffice. Health doesn’t just come physically. It includes the whole person. So I wish to hear how you do emotionally, spiritually, etc. 😉
With friends, “how are you?” seems a good way to start a conversation esp. when I haven’t seen the person for some time. When one answers, “I’m fine.” I say… “yes…and…” LOL. Please I rare to hear more!
I can so imagine you getting people to talk about themselves, Melissa. You’re so empathetic, it would be but natural for people to open up to you! ♥
I tend to find that question is asked pretty much 98% of the time without the person being interested in the answer. I have many different ways I answer this (tend to get asked it at the shops/supermarket) “trust me you don’t want to know” – “I could tell you but it would take up too much of your time” – “Oh just wonderful, that’s sarcasm in case you didn’t know” – “would you really like to know?”
I always answer with ï’m fine”which I find doesn’t work anymore..so now I say ï’m ok”if they want to know more I tell them if not I don’t..I think it depends on the situation and who I am having the conversation with,,,,still I’ll always respond with a smile because a smile is contagious…I want others to smile…As always…XOXOXOXOXO
I too think the smile is important, Bonnie – but it sometimes takes a lot to put one on when you’re feeling low.
I think the nature of the response comes somewhat from the way the question is asked. I can usually tell when someone passing says, “How are you,” and the say it quickly, still walking. That means, “Hello, see you later.” When they look me in the eye and say, “How ARE you,” then I know they want to know a little more, until they start looking past me and wiggling their feet a little. Then they’ve heard all they want for now. I think more is communicated through body language and voice inflection than with the actual words. We have to see beyond the obvious, which is second nature to us — instinct and gut. Nice post…
I agree, Jimi Ann. The body language is a real giveaway as to whether they’re interested or not. Thank you for your comment!
Some times people will go into the details of how they are feeling even with a stranger as their own family may be disregarding them.
Sometimes even when a person is feeling down..may answer positively…because they might actually feel their mood uplifting.
But, to simply to get on with an impersonal conversation…I am fine or I am good will do.
So true, Janaki. Like Claire commented loneliness plays a part. And sometimes we’re not comfortable answering the question.
I’m doing great Corinne, thank you for asking 🙂
My response is usually generated by how well I know the person. I vary between sarcasm to serious, depending on the relationship.
Glad you’re doing well, Mary. Yes I know exactly what you mean by varying responses!
I do agree that it seems funny when unknown people ask you this question and most of the time we know that they don’t really mean it and are just being cordial or exchanging notes. But yes, it means a lot coming from known friends or acquaintances, as it relates to us and connects us to one another immediately. It shows concern for one another and let’s one another know that we are worried about their welfare.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Yes, Harleena. Most times it’s only a pleasantry. But it’s important that we ask this question with concern to the ones who matter to us…and be authentic in our response to them too!
Hi Corinne lovely post and picture! Amazing how we tend to answer the question with “Ok” or “Im fine thanks” when lord knows what is really going on guess it depends on how comfortable you feel with the person.
Keep up the holistic work! GX
An interesting post Corinne, as I am not sure how much to ‘disclose’ often. People know instinctively if you’re not doing well, and yet in our world want just a tiny clip of information, to which they can give a quick, pat response, and then continue on their way I find. They’re being polite but you’re on a second’s timing! LOL Am wondering if Ashley and Greg made it to have dinner with you as i haven’t heard anything and know you had made plans initially. Take care girlfriend.
So true, Elizabeth. People ask and then put their stop watches on! 🙂 Messaged you about Ashley and Greg.
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Anotherrrrrrrrrrr sweet post from you, Corinne.. I am doing goooooooood no strike that – I am doing greaaaaaaaaaaat and that is an honest answer. Nope, I am not scared of God’ s thunder bolt, I am God’s special child. Each one of us are. 🙂 He is always taking care of us. WHY shouldn’t we be thankful to Him when he is so kind to us?? Just by acknowledging his blessings, I don’t think it casts an omen – in fact, by being grateful, we attract more n more in life.. agreeeeeeeeeeee???
So glad to know you’re doing great, Punam. You’re absolutely right – gratitude is a magnet for more blessings. ♥
I am feeling AWESOME and always will be! =)
That’s my everyday’s answer to people who greet me with this question. I am truth to myself and I REALLY feel awesome everything. Leave negativity emotions and stay awesome daily!
Contrary to my style of writing, where I open up, when I am talking or answering a question like ‘how are you’, I will keep it short and sweet regardless of how I am feeling. When I really not so fine, I end up writing it all out, and later say, “doing good…. now”. If I am having a bad day or in a dark place, I am radio silent and only smile or change the subject away from me.
I understand that completely, Brenda. I’m more likely to retreat to a quiet place and work things out for myself than tell someone else. I might tell them after a bad spell is over, but not when I’m going through it.
I tend to answer “Fine. Thanks. How are you?”. It all depends who’s doing the asking and where I am at the point of being asked. I’m quite the private man, so tend to keep my answer as short as possible. Sometimes, especially in passing & when eye contact has been made, I think people are just being polite. I’ve had people ask me that same question & walked away before I’ve even had a chance to answer!
Love the orange flowers…orange is on my list of favorite colors.
In response to your question…”I’m fine. Thanks for asking.” (smile)
What a lovely post! I believe you are on the mark with regards to the reply. It definitely holds true for me that how I answer the question greatly depends on how close I am to the person asking. If it is someone I know and ‘trust’ then they get the full truth. If it is only an acquaintance, it is likely they will get the reply that I give to everyone else I am not close to. Generally, that reply is “I am well thank you, and you?” Loved this post!
Thanks, Leah. You’re right, it is a matter of trust.
Usually people give more detail to those they know well and love. I am the opposite. I tend to give more detail to strangers than to those I love. I figure that strangers while some may care because they are caring people most if not all will go about their daily life and not even give thought to the person again. But, family and loved ones (not all mind you) will fret and worry if you tell them details. My answer to that question for many years up until a year or two ago was, “I’m fine.” Or “Good.” my grandma always asked me, “Only good?” Little did she know that it was far worse than she could imagine. Well maybe not but, she’s my grandma and she’s a worrier and I don’t like to put my stress on others. It’s my burden to carry and I shall carry it alone. Truth is more people should care more. No I don’t mean I need to know about your bowel movements, yet it seems every family member I talk to tells me about theirs. Awww, family… the toilet we all live in.
I understand this too, Jenni. Sometimes it’s much easier to confide in strangers, knowing they can’t hurt you with the information or worry about you until you have to pull your hair out!! I’m sorry that you get so much crap – literally and figuratively!
Corinne, most definitely, when some people ask this question, I’m convinced they say it as a greeting and not because they’re interested in your reply. Some people even look irritated when you answer it! I’ve solved the problem by simply replying, “I’m well, thank you. And you?” This way, I’m not disappointed when the other person doesn’t appear to have a genuine interest in how I am. But you’re right, carrying on does seem like a sad reply. It makes me think of carrying on with the burden that is life. And you, my dear, Corinne, how are you? 🙂
I know exactly what you mean, Bella. We learn to be brief and impersonal not to get hurt at times. ‘Carrying on’ always seems sad to me….but that perhaps is the subject of another post 😉
I’m doing very well thank you, Bella and having just read an account of the baking of a lemon cake, I feel much better 😉
I am fine, thank you and you? Is how I answer this question. To a friend, ‘I am trying to be fine’ and with very dear ones, my response is, ‘ Can I just talk about anything that comes to my mind, eventually I will get to how I am actually feeling’. And my friends understand. Thought provoking post, How are you doing, Corinne? 🙂
Have a great day.
I’m doing very well thank you, Sulekha. I like your response to those close to you. I do that too sometimes, when I’m very emotional about something. Thanks for your comment.
This was a really interesting post! I think a lot of people ask “How are you?” more out of custom than interest. The world would be a bit more jovial if we all cared every time we asked that question! I’d say I’ve gotten used to answering “great”…even if I’m not. It just makes things simpler that way.
I agree that the world would be so much better if we took the time to really care about the response to that question, Jessica.
A very keen observation. Most people I meet will say a quick ‘I am fine’ and some are like the people you have encountered. My response will always depend on my day though I never go in details except with a few close friends and my family..
I too find it hard to go in to details with people who are not close. Even with those who are, I take sometime to open up. I was looking forward to updates on your blog – haven’t seen any in a while now. Hope you’re doing okay. 🙂
Thanks Martha and Elizabeth. I appreciate your comments too ♥
i thought of that so many times, and asked myself so many times who cares about how I really feel. I made the experience on purpose, and I answered, feeling really down, but the person went on with talking not even noticing my reply. I never ask someone a “routine”question. when I do, I mean it and care.
If i was to answer honestly your question today, I can only say: I haven’t felt as bad as i feel today in very very long.
I’m sorry to hear that you’re not doing to well, Nikky. I’m here anytime you need to chat. Yes, I wish we’d put more thought and meaning in to that question when we ask it. So glad you do that! ♥
My former colleague always answered this question the same way…”Perfect!” No matter what, that was his answer. I’ll use him as a model and always answer “Great!”
‘Perfect’ sounds very British, Galen. I’m glad you’re doing great. When we really mean it, then our feelings follow our thoughts!
My Inner Chick
Interesting conversation, Corinne.
I love that you took the time w/ her.
23 months ago I used to say “GREAT, how are you?”
Now I just say “OKAY, how are you?”
I guess that’s something.
I adore your posts. That make me go Ahhhhhh. Xxx <3
I understand why your answer changed, Kim…Thank you for your comment. It means so much that you like my posts. You do know how I feel about you and yours! ♥
Oh! Don’t ask me. I will just start cribbing like there is no tomorrow. Hahahaaaa… Oh. That was my reply last week. But I think I sounded too merry. The person laughed with me… 🙂
So how are you Corinne? 🙂
I usually answer the question, “How are you doing?” with “Amazing!” which is always True — no matter what’s going on! hahahahah!
Like I said to Galen our feelings follow our thoughts and words – so that’s a great answer too, Linda!
I always answer I am awesome 😉 !!!
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That’s a great answer!
it works wonders sometime ! 🙂
Rahul Miglani recently posted..voices in the dark