How are you doing? 2

This post sat in my drafts for a long time. I was struggling to complete it because I did not really know where to go with it. Then I came across another blog post by Sarah and it suddenly made sense to me because she described it so beautifully. Here is how I started.

How are you doing? An innocent enough sounding question. However, it might turn out as a very hard question for a bereaved parent to answer. I see a couple of difficulties with this question:

  • I don’t know if you are saying hi or are indeed interested in finding out how I am.
  • Social protocol dictates a short response. But how am I going to sum it all up into just one or a bunch of words?
  • The typical expectation for a response seems to be on the positive side of things like “Great”. Sometimes people might say just “Okay” or “Not so good”, but has anyone ever replied with “Awful”, “Life sucks” or something like that? Would you be prepared for that?
  • How much information do you want? Depending on my emotional state I might be inclined to respond with a rather lengthy account full of sadness. You might get more than you asked for.
  • I am not sure if I will be able to tell you the truth. This will very much depend on the environment and if I consider it safe to be truthful. In other words, I might just have to lie.
  • Most importantly I often don’t even know myself how I feel.

Then I was stuck because I did not know where to take it from here. Welcome Sarah and her post titled “How is too hard“. I liked her very simple suggestion to move away from “how” and instead to ask questions about “what”. Even if I don’t know how I feel doing things, I can answer a question about what I am doing. And by talking about the what, we might even be able to get to some of the how.

Help break the silence!

2 thoughts on “How are you doing?

  1. Reply Lanette Aug 20,2013 10:03 pm

    I liked this this idea. I will remember to use “what” instead of “how”.

  2. Reply Jaime Aug 20,2013 11:01 pm

    Great post Jens! That is a question I dread daily as I often feel that people don’t ask the question to hear the honest answer, but rather as a continuum of saying hello. Also, how I am doing one moment is often very different of how I was doing 5 minutes ago, or how I will be in 5 minutes from now. It may be a simple question, but as a bereaved parent there is no simple answer. I too like Sarah’s suggestion of using what instead of how.

Leave a Reply