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The Confusing Question: "How are you?"

The “How are you?” question, if heard literally, leaves you in the unpleasant position of evaluating yourself and then determining if the questioner really wants to know anyway.  Are they just being polite or do they want to hear from you?  If so, how much and what do they want to hear?

The first thing I do with this question is give myself permission not to evaluate my current state.   I dread my own lifeless responses; good, fine, okay, alright.   Instead I go looking for what’s alive for me in the moment.  If the questioner is still listening for an answer by the time I am ready to share, I share some of what is alive in me.  Something like, “I just had a fun bike ride with my sister.”  Or “Feeling a little slow this morning.”

With my friends, I often ask them to ask me a different question.  Over time we have taught ourselves to ask more connecting questions like:  “What’s alive for you?”  “What’s happening in your day today?”  “What’s going on in your world?”  “Any celebrations to share?”  “Any needs up for you?”  “Is there anything I can hold with you?”  “Do you have any requests?”  “Is there something you would like listening around?”

This week as your greeting someone challenge yourself to answer the “how are you?” question in a way that is authentic for you.  Also, experiment with new questions to help you connect with others.

***click here for a list of feelings and universal needs http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources.php

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1 Response

  1. Nov 22, 2008

    I loved this one. It's so much more real than just saying 'How are you'. Thanks!

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