When we ask people, “How are you doing?” we shouldn’t expect to hear the truth most of the time.
Some of the time they can’t tell us the truth and sometimes they won’t tell us. And sometimes they will. Most of the time people instinctively cover what they really feel.
Why is this?
It’s because people are asked insincerely. If there is one thing we are asked flippantly, “How are you doing?” is it. Many times people aren’t the foggiest bit inclined to hear a heartfelt response to that question. Would we be prepared to hear, “Not so good; my life is going horribly”?
Do we have the time to devote to affirming that type of response?
Exploring This Unauthenticity
The inauthentic invites the inauthentic.
People can’t or won’t tell us what’s really going on for them for a variety of reasons. They don’t trust us or our intent for asking. They may feel we are just being nice and polite and, therefore, we deserve a nice answer—not to be burdened. Or maybe they don’t feel we or they have the time to explore the deeper issues at hand. Perhaps there are no deep issues troubling the conscious mind at the time.
The wondrous element of authenticity in rapport is this: people can smell a mile off whether we are for real or not.
People will share their burdens with a caring person. Sometimes those people who share don’t even know why they share, but a caring person invites them in safety.
Why Do We Ask?
If we ask people how they are out of genuine interest then we understand the power of authenticity in respect of people. Why, then, do we ask such awkward questions of people if we are genuinely uninterested?
It’s perhaps because we, of ourselves, are uncomfortable deeper within. Maybe our lack of authenticity with others is a clue for our lack of authenticity with ourselves.
Sometimes it’s because it’s a habit—we ask, “How are you doing?” because it fills an awkward void. We don’t want to appear unfriendly or distant, but in asking insincerely that is actually what we do.
Sometimes it buys us time; there are no awkward silences whilst we think of something more meaningful to ask or say. It’s a foot in the door.
If we travel into this awkwardness we are bound to have a better chance of finding better questions to ask and we will have the opportunity of asking those questions with real, interested intent.
When we ask people how they are going we should ask expecting an honest answer. When we ask insincerely we will get an insincere response. But when we ask in a genuinely caring way, we invite people to open up.
Being honest with people in our interactions with them requires us to be honest with ourselves. Insincerity with others often reveals insincerity within ourselves.
Being real with people is the greatest gift we can give both them and ourselves.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.