How often do you tell the truth when asked, “How are you?”
Yes, that’s what I was thinking. Don’t worry; I’m guilty of lying as well. Almost all the time.
Now, how often do you check in with a friend who says, “I’m fine,” if you suspect they aren’t. That’s right, I’m in the same boat as you.
I’m lucky to have a fiancé, family, and a few friends that can tell when my mental health is dipping and ask me twice (or more!) if they hear “yeah, fine, you?”
Now, asking twice does not imply that you are saying the same thing twice. That would be aggravating.
“How are you doing?”
“How are you doing?”
To me, asking the same question twice signifies two different things. Here are a few ways my friends have shown they are there for me when I don’t appear to be myself.
“Are you sure?”
The message is succinct, pleasant, and to the point. “Are you sure?” allows me to either take the bait and open up a little, or simply respond with a “yeah, I’m fine, thank you,” safe in the knowledge that the person who has asked me how I’m doing genuinely wants to know, rather than just throwing a clichéd greeting at me.
“All right, you know where I am in case you need me.”
This is one of my favorites. It lets me know they’ve noticed I’m sad without confronting me with the reality (which is especially good on days when I’m not ready to talk), while also emphatically telling me that I can go to them if I need them. When a mental health problem makes you feel alone, knowing this is extremely helpful.
This is, admittedly, a boring question. And small talk can irritate you. A simple “how was the weekend?” or “you’re going on vacation soon, right?” or something along those lines indicates that you’re interested in your friend’s or colleague’s or family member’s lives without delving too much. If you happen to land on an area where they want to vent, that’s fantastic. They know you care even if you don’t show it.
“Did you watch last night’s game?”
Changing the conversation to something you both enjoy, whether it’s a game, reality TV show, or the latest movie, is a wonderful approach to stop poking them. When I’m feeling depressed, talking about banal issues helps me forget that I’m “not normal” or that I’m dragging people down.
“Nice one; if I’m being honest, I’m having a bad day.”
When a friend shares something that’s on their mind, it never fails to remind me that it’s OK to talk to others about my worries. Being open yourself may suggest that you’re the type of person that is willing to share and listen, which I like when a friend is honest with me. (However, only do so if you have something to say; don’t invent problems to get me to tell you about mine; that’s naughty!)
In essence, there is no right or wrong answer. There isn’t a single phrase that will strike a chord with everyone.
However, if you ask twice with interest, listen carefully, and take your friend’s words seriously, you’ll be showing that you’re ready to hear more when they’re ready to speak. People asking me twice when I’m depressed, for example, has played a significant role in saving my life.
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