I’m Fine, Thanks – But How Are YOU?

Last May I wrote a post titled “I’m Fine, Thanks” in which I talked about a time I decided to be real with how I am feeling and the repercussions of declaring that I am NOT fine.

Today I wanted to continue on that, because I have been practicing what I preached about since then, but I have added a new dance to that routine.

“How are YOU?” Then I step back and really listen. Let me share with you what I have found.

Super friendly lady in the jewelry store. Eager to please with a smile as big as Texas. Her attitude is generous and giving. I asked “How are YOU?” Then I sat down to listen.

She is struggling daily with intense back pain for which she has not been able to find relief. Standing on her feet so much aggravates this, but she has to have the job. Several relationships have been difficult lately and many times she never even wants to leave the house. She wrestles with severe depression and feels nobody understands.

The guy who handed me my coffee through the window at the drive-thru. Friendly and seemed not to have a care in the world. He was slightly goofy in an endearing way. I asked “How are YOU?” and then since nobody was behind me, I put it in park and listened.

He had a very bad breakup not long ago and although thankful that no children were involved; he mourns the fact that he has no children. He was treated so horribly that sometimes he doesn’t consider that his life is worth living. His mother is worried for him…I am worried for him.

The older man who bagged my groceries. He has a calming presence and an eager smile. Always willing to help and always has stickers ready for my kids. Full of wisdom and cute “old person” sayings. I asked him “How are YOU?” and was ready to listen.

His wife died not long ago after years of being very ill. Medical bills have stacked up and he is forced to work two jobs even though he gets Social Security. He is living in a one room basement apartment of one of his children’s houses. They pretty much ignore him and he is hurt by the treatment of family.

These are only three examples of the hundreds of stories I have gathered from people who are just down the street from me. People who by first glance appear happy and that they are enjoying life. These people I make a point to visit over and over. I listen to how the story is going and they are always amazed I remember them.

How could I forget their heartache?

I don’t just ask these people “How are YOU?” in a flippant manner that suggests I am just being polite. I stop what I am doing. I make eye contact. I make sure my posture shows that I am really listening. I ask questions and then I remember them.

How many people do you have brief contact with during the day and you never stop to think that they have a story? Their smile assures you that their life is good and you move about your day without another thought to what is behind their smile. Are they struggling at home? Are they struggling with family? Are they struggling to even have the will to live another day?

What would you be able to change if you asked them how they are…how they REALLY are and took the time to listen?

Categories: Uncategorized

9 replies

  1. This is so very true. I must have “I am a listener” stamped on my forehead because I often end up chatting with perfect strangers about their lives. One lady in particular (who I always look for when I’m at Walmart on a Sunday evening but have yet to see her again) started telling me about her son who has Angelman Syndrome, which I had never heard of. She told me of how her six year old son is unable to speak or walk balanced. He has seizures and will always be under her care. She told me of how she has 5 kids including her son with the disability, takes care of her mother as well as her sister’s kids and that Sunday evening was the only time she can get her shopping done. She looked so worn out yet fairly young.

    I always make it a point to be genuine when asking “How are you?”. Even on the phone. It really surprises some people. I will totally make that a daily goal. Maybe we should challenge others as well!!

  2. That is so true. Most people do not care what they answer is and so I have taken either to not answering or or saying I am fine.
    I try to listen to others, tho. The world seems so one sided, but then again — if you follow Jesus I guess that is the way it is to be.

  3. The first post on my blog that ever got decent attention was something called “I think I’ll Die My Hair Blue”…about conversation. I’m a huge fan. When I was growing up people who knew me eitehr thought I was this arrogant snob or this chatty kid that liked talking everything to death. Partly due to my social anxiety disorder, I would rather have intense, emotional, meaningful conversation with people than stupid small talk.

    If you met me, I would say hello then wait for a time to engage you in conversation. I know this seems weird, but it’s how I’m wired, all robot and everything.

    I know the difference between pleasantries/ small talk and talking. I’d rather talk.

    Good post…sorry for the novel length comment

  4. This reminded me of the time my sister was visiting me and after a few hours of wandering about the city, showing her my favourite places, etc. she turned to me and asked, “Do you have to talk to everybody?” Her question floored me because it felt like a judgment. I took a deep breath and said, “No. I don’t HAVE to. I want to.” and realized in that moment that I really did, that for me it’s always about connection.

    And it’s easy to forget and take it for granted. You’ve reminded me Alycia, what a gift it is when we show up this way for others. xoS

  5. Oh I love this post. I really, really dislike how people spout off “Hello, how are you?” and you are supposed to just say “Fine thank you, how are you?”. WITHOUT REALLY CARING. It’s just a pleasantry now, nothing more.
    I’m going to practice this. Thank you, thank you.

  6. What a blessing you are to them for really listening. I suck at that, in all my relationships. I always walk away hating myself for talking too much.

    I am new to wordpress, where do I find the option to e-mail a post to put with my posts?

    Thank you,


  7. I think it’s amazing that you take the time to listen!

  8. I love having opportunities like these to ask how people are doing and get to hear how they’re really doing. and like Lance, I’d rather have substantive conversation than exchange pleasantries. im so glad you linked up with this today and introduced us to some of the people you’e met, and the stories they tell.

  9. Love that you take time to really listen. It’s so important. And may have changed that persons life.

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