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"I'm fine. How are you?"

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

These are Not Normal Times

In normal times we can let this slide. Afterall, the question, 'how are you?', to the puzzlement of non-native English speakers, is not a real question. Usually there is only one acceptable answer (with a number of semantic substitutes), which is 'fine'. Since it became clear that the Covid-19 virus was highly infectious with a risk of mortality, and that it would totally disrupt every country on the planet, this answer no longer suffices.

Empty supermarket shelves
Few of us ever thought we would encounter empty supermarket shelves (Image: Mick Haupt)

Give Other People Permission to Share Their Feelings

Nobody is fine. We're all worried. I mean I understand that many people feel that, compared to the people in China, on balance, they're doing OK. That's not the same as 'fine' and it's not the same as 'OK'. So,the next time someone gives you that automatic polite answer, please gently delve a little deeper. Give them permission to tell you what's really on their mind. Ask them if they're worried about anyone they know. You might even joke with them and ask how short of toilet roll they will need to get before they admit to being anxious or ask them if they're sleeping OK. Anything that prises open the locked door keeping their feelings hidden. If you succeed you will both feel better and more connected as a result.

Give Yourself Permission to Feel

And if someone asks you how you are, please pause for a moment before you answer and give yourself permission to feel and express what you're feeling. They're not asking about your job or about your family; they're asking about you. So test the water.. Try sharing a little of how you're feeling. After all, for perhaps the first time, people now have time to listen properly. Let's not waste that chance by only talking about the weather. Remember, the opposite of feeling is not being fully alive.

How to Talk About Your Feelings and Why it Matters

Sure, you can caveat it by saying 'of course, everyone is in the same situation' and 'of course, there are people who are worse of than me', but do not allow that to diminish your own feelings or use it as an excuse to run away from the scary uncertainty that has replaced the certainties that previously defined your routine. People who are fortunate and to whom life has generally been kind are often the least well-versed in acknowledging, dealing with and expressing their worries when bad things happen. 'I'm fortunate so I shouldn't worry' is not the same as 'I'm fortunate so I'm not worried'. Moreover, many people unconsciously carry inside them a belief - a fear - that if they fail to appreciate their relative good luck then they will tempt fate to take it back from them. I believe the opposite is true.. if we don't open up (to ourselves and others) about our fears, griefs and anxieties they will eat us alive from the inside out!

If you don't want to talk to your friends and family about how you're feeling (or if you genuinely feel OK, but want to check if that's true, then please SEND ME A MESSAGE. Alternatively go ahead and BOOK THE 'TASTER' SESSION (on the 'Get Started' page).

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