Never ask – “How are you feeling today?”
It’s taken me a long time to get out of the automatic habit of saying, “How are you?” when I see someone. That question would be all right to ask most healthy people because the spontaneous response of “fine” would be appropriate.
I have discovered that people who are ill hate that simple question. Most of the time the answer is not “fine” and yet they feel obligated to answer with that very response, so as not to disappoint. When I questioned my daughter Christine about giving such a positive response, on a day when she felt just awful, she said “Mom, people don’t always want to know the real answer to that question. Also, who really wants to go through a litany of symptoms and aches and pains? It’s easier to just say-fine.” You have to pick and choose whom to be honest with and who really wants that quick succinct answer- “fine.”
Recently, my 80 year old mom has been recuperating from major knee surgery. At the beginning of her recuperation, when I went into her hospital room I slipped back into the bad habit and the cliché of saying “hi Mom, how are you?” She would then tell me one or many adjectives that fit the description of lousy and our time together inevitably started off on a negative note.
Now, I begin the visit by asking “How was your day today? Anybody call or visit?” I get lots more information and at this point, I kind of know how she feels and when she is having less pain. As most of you know- pain has a way of showing itself on your face. It doesn’t need an announcement that it is here.
So the next time someone asks you “How are you?” – be patient, it’s become more of a greeting than a true inquiry. And the next time you see someone you know who is sick or recuperating ask “What is new?” or “How was your day?” If they want you to know about their health, they will tell you.
So to all of you out there- “How was your day?”….. Great, I hope.
by Janet Miserandino © 2005