As someone who struggles regularly with depression and anxiety, especially lately, I’ve come to realize just how much I hate “How are you doing?” – not the genuine question, the small talk.
If someone genuinely asks how I’m doing and wants a real answer, that’s one thing. That’s a conversation, and if they know to ask, they typically know not to expect the answer to be short or particularly comfortable. Because if I answer honestly, it won’t be. And as much as I don’t love awkward conversations, that’s ok. Even if it’s uncomfortable, it demonstrates that they care.
What I hate is when people ask “How are you doing?” or “How are you?” as part of “Hello.” Because that’s all it is – a longer, more drawn-out version of “Hello.” They don’t want a real answer. All they want is the typical “fine,” “good,” or “ok” so that they can move on to what they really want to talk to you about.
Why can’t they go straight to what they really want to talk to you about? 😖
Ok, yes, I get that they’ve been taught that it’s part of the traditional greeting or good manners. It’s just that since I realized how many languages I can say, “I’m tired” in, I’ve been asked it a lot, and I’ve started resenting the question.
When you’re not feeling fine, good, or ok, it’s triggering. It’s putting you on the spot because saying the expected response feels like lying. In a very real sense, it is lying. And after a while, “I’m tired” stops working.
Because if you’re talking to the same people day after day, they notice the trend, and they start asking questions or teasing you about needing more coffee. However it goes, it brings attention to something you don’t want to bring attention to. Something they probably don’t want you to talk about anyway – and that is the impression society gives about depression and anxiety: Don’t talk about it in public. Don’t risk your job by admitting it to coworkers. Don’t risk friendships by admitting vulnerabilities or problems.
But what does that leave? Lie. Or avoid answering. Or ask them back and hope they forget you didn’t answer (I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with that strategy).
I feel put on the spot every time, and the more it happens, the more the question bothers me. Like a splinter being pushed deeper instead of being pulled out.
Am I overthinking the whole thing? Of course, I have anxiety. That’s what people with anxiety do. But it’s still an honest and legitimate response. And not wanting to lie isn’t that bad as faults go.
That said, I would be much happier if my friends and coworkers would stop saying, “How are you doing?” when they really mean, “Hello.” Who started that stupid trend anyway?