How are you today?
It is a question we all hear, and that we ask of others. We hear responses that vary in a litany of bad things happening in some people’s lives, to others seemingly having a constant onslaught of good things, to the most likely answer of “Fine, and you?”. I think we all fall in to each of these categories on any given day, at any given moment, and we can agree that for some people life is always a series of crap, for others they see everything in a positive perspective and for the fine people, it doesn’t really mean fine.
My mom once got caught up at JCPenney for about an hour, because she asked someone how they were. The person was having a really rough go of bad events, one right after another, and my mom listened to them tell her about it. They probably needed someone to listen to them and about their struggles, but I learned something interesting that day. My mom was put out because she didn’t really want to know all of that, to which my response was, well if you really didn’t want to know, then you should not have asked. She kind of looked at me like I had three heads, but I doubt she ever asked someone how they were after that, unless she was in a space to hear what was really going on.
How often do we ask people how they are, with the expectation of them telling us all their troubles? Probably next to none, but we question more so out of politeness and the response is usually polite in return, “I am fine, and how are you?”. This is such a ridiculous notion to waste our breath on a polite interaction. Why don’t we instead ask how something specific is going? How are you enjoying retirement? How are you doing with your new baby? How is your new job going? Oh, yeah, that is right! That would be actual care and actual conversation that would require time. How about this then: “Good morning, it is nice to see you today.”. And the person can then choose to be polite in return, or they can bask in the glow of your positive greeting.
We bring about negativity and toxicity in our quest to be polite. Someone asked me how I was at 5:30 the other morning, to which I used to have something positive to say, and to which I currently do not, so I stick with, “I am fine, how are you?”, knowing they may choose to reply with whatever they choose. What I really want to say in reply to that question is this: “I am fine, because I choose to not be anything less than that. I would appreciate you not asking me for a while, instead maybe you can point out that it is a nice morning, and it should be a beautiful day!”. So why did I just not say that, why did I just choose silence after the whole I am fine bit?
I chose silence out of politeness, I chose it because I was hoping to keep my less than stellar attitude to myself.
That sounds like a self pitying response, it isn’t. But if we can’t be positive, or neutral, why can’t we just shut up already??? This world is full of shallow, non communicative, polite responses and to be honest, I’d rather not converse if that is the case.
I have observed lately that conversations are like a funnel, the dialogue is opened up with one person, and that person tends to direct the way the conversation goes, with everyone’s responses following suit. So if Rita is negative, Sally and Sue are too. Hey ladies, I have news for you, everyone struggles, everyone has issues, everyone is trying to stay afloat, but honestly, can you just not be so negative??? Can you be a tad self controlled?
So she wants us to be honest, but not negative, and self controlled? She is asking for a lot!
Yes, but she gives a lot. A lot of room for honesty, a lot of room for real life issues, a lot of room for another’s story, but she is tired of others taking up space, and not just thinking about the whole room. I reckon she doesn’t have room for surface dwelling either, she’d just assume silence as anything else.
Do you never feel that way? Do feel that yelling at someone to stop saturating in either a negative or toxicly polite way would not help, so you just choose silence, and you wish they did too? Is this you wanting to stifle their voices? Not at all, you just aren’t the audience for either, especially not at 5:30am!