Hi, how are you? Cómo estás? Nǐ hǎo ma? Wie geht es dir? ça va ? āp kaise haiṅ? Most people around the world greet people with a “How are you?” phrase when they see each other. I do it, you do it, it’s cultural.
But now, as someone who has been going through a challenging season in life, my mind runs circles around what I should say as people ask me this dozens of times each day. It happens at the grocery, with my neighbors, my best friends and family. So, recently my reaction has been a few moments of weird silence then a stumbling over my words. Alright. Okay. Sigh. Pretty horrible. About an 18%. Or should I simply avoid the awkwardness and go with the “Fine, how are you?”
When do I want to know how people are doing? There are times when I really do want to know how the barista behind the counter is, how my coworker has been, or what is going on in the UPS delivery guy’s life – and I always want to know how my friends are doing. But, how many people feel the same way?
Most Americans don’t feel comfortable sharing anything about themselves but their joy and success in this “Facebook, Instagram-ing, put your best status forward” type of decade. And those who do share their complaints, negative experiences, and hardships in conversation are often seen as the Debbie-Downer in the room.
So, as I go forward in grief over our little Malia’s death, I am learning what it looks like to be authentic, but not overwhelming with the people I encounter. There will be trial and error as people have a variety of expectations of what they are going to hear as a response to their greeting that day. But, I will hopefully figure it out as time goes on.