How many times a week do you run into someone at work, at the grocery store, or while out for a neighborhood walk and in order to make polite conversation you ask, ''How are you doing?" to which the polite response is always, "I'm fine."? You smile, you asked your obligatory question, you waved good bye and then went on about your day. But if you had stuck around long enough the other person might have answered with a different answer; a more truthful one.
Many people are going through difficult times. They may be dealing with grief, an illness, loneliness, sadness, or anxiety. But, truth be told, who wants to get an emotional response to a simple "How are you doing?" question? If we're going to be completely honest; probably no one. We're all busy, have things to do, are on our way to someplace extremely important, and have very limited extra time. So why do we bother asking? Don't we realize that most people can see right through our efforts and know that we're just trying to be polite; after all you were already probably two steps away before you had actually finished the question.
Now, if you invite a friend to breakfast or lunch or out for a cup of tea or a walk and ask the question, then be prepared to stick around long enough to expect a response. We look around every day and see and admire people that we think have it all together, but do they? Or are they just one question away from asking for a tissue because they're feeling overwhelmed? Many people are good at hiding their emotions and some are an open book. Without ever asking, some people you will always know who's sad, who's sick, who's tired, etc. Some people have no trouble sharing what's going on. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Whoever said that we all have to have super powers? Whoever said that showing emotion was a sign of weakness? Maybe some people wouldn't feel as alone or sick or tired or overwhelmed if they didn't feel the need to keep it all inside for fear that someone might think less of them.
We never really know what others are dealing with. We never really know what is going on behind the forced smile. The next time you find yourself asking someone, "How are you doing?", be prepared to actually wait for a response. If the answer is the obligatory "I'm fine.", perhaps ask a second question and then see where the conversation goes. The next smile you see may be a bit more authentic.
Just something to think about.