Usually when someone asks me, “How are you?” I respond instinctively with an, “I’m fine, thank you.”
The problem is, fine isn’t a feeling. At best, it’s a nondescript, neutral state of existence. And “I’m good” isn’t much better.
These responses are the consequence of years of mindless reactions to a soul-searching question that people colloquially use as a greeting.
But when we take the time to sit with it, the question is quite powerful.
“How are you?” Or, asked differently, “What does it feel to be you right now?”
The first step to answering this question is finding the right vocabulary.
The Center for Nonviolent Communication (which honestly should be renamed “The Center for Rational, Thoughtful, Self-Aware and Productive Communication” — yes, I am a huge fan :-)) is a resource that can help us find the words for what we are feeling and trying to communicate. In our Compassion Guide this month, we dove deep and synthesized dozens of pages into a short and really helpful exercise for members.
But back to finding the right words… the Center has a resource listing the wide variety of emotions we might be feeling at any given time. They divide the words into two buckets — feelings for when your needs are met and feelings for when they are not.
Take a look at the following words. Pause for a moment with each — what does that feeling really feel like?
… the list goes on.
“Fine” is not on the list. Neither is “good”. :-)
So, how are you?