Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How are you really, friend?

Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.
-- Ed Cunningham

Three words, nine letters, and it can make all the difference in the world: “How are you?” At times I am convinced that a sincere “How are you?” says more about how much you mean to someone than an “I love you”.

We can gush out an “I love you” to a stranger that lets us go before them to the bathroom when they notice us dancing to the tune of a bursting bladder and totally mean it at the time. And of course, we can say it more times than we can count no matter how false it may be when we feel it is what we need to say to get ‘some’.

But I have noticed this; No matter how badly you want a person or want a favor from said person, or are grateful to said person, it is mighty hard to listen to the answer to “How are you?” when you do not care. Especially when the answer is anything other than “I am fine, thanks for asking”.

At times, I do not realize how far I have drifted from a friend until they ask “How are you?” If a reflex “I am fine” comes out when I am anything but, I know the friendship is going downhill and I need to decide if I’m going to try and save it or just watch it fall into that dark abyss of past friendships.

If I ask a perfunctory “How are you?” and cannot be bothered to listen to anything that is not an equally cursory “I am fine”, I know there is no need lying to myself about how little someone really matters.

It amazes me how amazed everyone is at a suicide. The amazement is even more amazing when the person has tons of ‘friends’ and loved ones coming out to say how sorry and sad they are and that they had no idea what the person was going through.

It makes me wonder, if people are such amazing actors/actresses, why are we being plagued with so many horrible movies these days? (JK! Ok, half-kidding)

It makes me wonder, would someone asking “How are you?” and waiting to hear the full answer, no matter how long and horrible it was, have made a difference? I don’t know… but I wonder.

A failed suicide attempt had parents and friends ask; “Why?” “Why didn’t you talk to us?” “How could we not know?” Still shaking from the visit to the no man’s land between life and death, Anna said, “You did not ask”. Mary looked away and said ‘I did. You didn’t listen’

While some people would judge and say you should be proactive about seeking help when you need it, blah blah blah, I think of how often we ask ‘How are you?’ and neither expect nor wait for a real answer.

Sometimes all we need is someone to listen. So what if the next time I ask a friend ‘How are you?’ I ask in a way that told them they could get vulnerable? What would I learn? What could I prevent?



  1. I agree with you. Most people ask that question and they just expect the perfunctory "i am fine" without the baggage that may follow.

  2. DOCTOR;how are you my dear?
    PATIENT(trussed up with IV lines & NG tube);am fine!come lie down and have lunch
    with me!

  3. I remember calling a friend aside to talk, but she kept on talking about trivial things that I did not have time to tell her the burden in my heart. In the same vain she called me on phone to tell me something important, but I was going on and on about trivial things.
    Summary, we usually are focused on ourselves such that we are not often sensitive to others. May we have sensitive hearts and the gift of listening, if only to comfort or be there for someone.