It’s like a reflex.
You ask someone “How are you?” and they answer “Fine, and you?”
It’s a greeting, really, not meant to be a dialogue or a real question and real answer. It’s a courteous habit.
But what if you sense someone really isn’t fine?
Now more than ever, being an emotionally supportive spouse, parent, friend or co-worker, can make a huge difference in someone’s day.
The ebb and flow of emotions is natural. And it helps to share them.
Deborah Grayson Riegel, author of “Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School and Life” has these tips for helping someone share their true feelings:
Ask more than once.
If you have a sense something’s wrong, ask, “I know you said you’re fine but I just wanted to ask again. How are you really doing today?” And then follow their lead on how much or how little is shared.
Ask something in addition to “How are you?”
After someone responds with, “I’m fine” you might ask about other parts of their life to get beyond the surface. Family, health, home, and hobbies are all good ways to go.
Remember details, and ask about them.
Ask about challenges from the past: a sick family member, a move, a child, etc. The goal isn’t to pry — it’s to let someone know that you’re paying attention, and that you care enough to follow up.
Model vulnerability by sharing your own feelings.
When someone asks you how you’re doing, be willing to tell the truth. See how the other person responds. Again, take their lead about how much further to go.
Create safe conditions.
Maintain confidentiality. Be direct if you sense real pain and trouble. And if you get in over your head, be sympathetic and suggest other good professional resources. Finally, don’t pry, just give space if you sense resistance.
Real support requires real sharing. Especially now.
Go beyond “fine” if you want to offer sincere support – and help.
Have a great week.
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