Answering this obvious question can help you build an unexpected connection.
When we, men, are asked how we are doing we instinctively say ‘fine’ even from a young age. I’ve even noticed the same pattern in the 9 year old boy I’m mentoring. It is a self-defence mechanism we, men, developed to protect and project a status that we are strong and have it all together.
We can’t show any sign of ‘weakness’ towards others, especially men, because we believe we lose status and respect in a fraction of a second if we wear our hearts on our sleeves. This is partially the social conditioning many of us have undergone.
But one thing that struck me when I moved to London was to find out that ‘how are you?’ is not a question.
In the countries that I lived on the continent when a friend or colleague asks ‘how are you?’ they meant it. You can give a polite answer to what you’ve been up to but without going too deep. It’s a way to build a connection with the other person. It is not perceived intrusive to one’s privacy or unnecessary exposure.
I always struggled with ‘I hope you are well’ or ‘Are you alright?’ approaches as well intended as they might be, because they are not inviting me to say how I actually am in that moment. So I guess no answer or ‘fine’ would do.
As we gradually emerge from lockdown, a bit more aware of mental health and prioritising wellbeing, when asked ‘how are you?’ we could stop and answer the (obvious) question. Or when a friend gives an evasive answer to ask again ‘but really, how are you?’