I think I am by nature an optimist. I tend to see the positive side of things where others may not be so inclined. I try to smile rather than frown as the ever present smile lines bear witness to. I guess I figure things could be worse so why dwell on the bad? Living these past decades has proved time and time again worrying does not resolve ones problems. Why imagine the worst? I am sure on occasion my positiveness might have proved annoying to friends and family who pursue a more realistic outlook. But who doesn’t benefit from a smile?
When someone asks “how are you doing?” what they are likely looking for is a short response, to the point so the conversation can move on toward whatever destination. They are being polite with their inquiry. Should your answer extend too long you risk breaking their rhythm. Delving into the actual state of affairs at that given moment may cause the inquirer to feel momentarily overwhelmed, unexpectedly getting more than they asked for. A “fine, thank you” is more in line with what they expect.
Let’s say you are feeling a bit under the weather – maybe a cold or allergy tickles your nose or a touch of something has you off. A friend asks how you are doing. How often do you find you telling a story slightly more upbeat than reality? Rather than risk being perceived as a downer you sugar coat your real situation. Should we feel the need to portray ourselves in a positive way if we do not in fact feel so?
When asked to respond to “how are you doing?” I invariably find myself wanting to answer in the positive. Even if I am not feeling 100 percent I find myself hedging my answer leaning toward the good rather than disclosing any bad. I figure no one really wants to hear my problems – they are being polite. As I get older I feel even more the burden of projecting a positive me. I don’t want to be known as that old guy who complains about everything.
Maybe we seek to be perpetually positive because we want to be liked. We know the type of people we prefer to interact with – positive, happy, energized – so perhaps we hope to exude similar characteristics. If we do people will want to hang around with us. Unfortunately this can be wishful thinking on those occasions when we feel subpar.
My wife was recently battling an illness. I know she was feeling poorly and having a difficult time of it. Yet when friends and family inquired about her status I found myself painting a picture sunnier than reality. “She is feeling better” was my tried and true response. Better than what? I explained her difficulties in detail but always tried to end with an upbeat note. I wanted things to be better so maybe I was convincing myself they in fact were.
As we continue adding candles to our birthday cake we will find ourselves forced to deal with challenges we never faced while younger. It should be okay to say how we really feel, to share genuine life moments rather than gloss over problems and focus myopically on the good.
I think we sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves trying to be positive when inside we might feel anything but. It should be okay to share the truth rather than dress it up. No one expects you to be upbeat all the time – why should you expect it of yourself?
So next time you run into a friend and venture forth a friendly “how are you doing?” don’t necessarily let them off with a whimsical “just fine.” Maybe they are fine and if so wonderful for them. But maybe they are not. A little prodding, perhaps some genuine interest and curiosity might enable them to open up a bit and let you into their real world. None of us feel like smiling all the time even if life is glorious for the moment. Sharing how you really feel is easier when you have a genuinely interested fellow human willing to hear you out.
And when an acquaintance crosses your path and inquires as to your well being, feel free to speak your mind. How else can anyone know how you really are?