Stop Asking "How Are You?" If You Aren't Ready to Listen

Start Asking 'How Are You?' With Intention

You never know what others are going through.

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How many times have you walked passed someone and had the "Hey, how are you?" convo? And how many times have you both replied "good!" and just kept walking? Probably more than you could ever count. We are all guilty of it and I definitely just did it on my way home 5 minutes ago. But after practicing and recruiting girls for my sorority for the past 2 weeks, I've come to find that the phrase "How are you?" should be asked with the purpose of genuinely caring and giving someone time to answer.

Sitting and talking to women for several hours a day makes you realize that people have so much going on in their lives and they don't even really get the time to talk about it. We just walk by one another and casually use that sentence as a way to make the person seem like you care about them and their lives. But what's weird is that you aren't even expecting a response or giving time for an answer. That makes it even worse than just simply walking passed with a simple wave.

I feel like in our society and the emerging goal of being more open about our feelings and mental health, it is essential to be more meaningful with our conversations. For people that we barely know or are getting to know there is less pressure to be deep, obviously, but for those people who we feel we know well, it is so important to be intentional. You want to always show them the love and compassion that are essential to long-lasting friendships.

So how am I going to start making my hi-and-byes more significant? Well for starters, I will only ask how they are doing when I know both of us aren't in a rush to be anywhere. That way they can provide an honest answer and I can provide them with my full attention. There will no longer be a need to be quick and avoid what needs to be said. I will also begin saying statements such as, "hey text me later, we need to catch up!" or "So great seeing you!" so that if I don't have the time at the moment for a conversation, they know that I do genuinely care, but that I will contact them later to check up on things.

I've found that the friends I've made more of an effort to see and make a constant in my life talk about how others don't do that for them. I'm not the type to do that for everyone in my life because I'm only one person but it's sad to hear my friends say that because everyone deserves an intentional friend. Everyone deserves a person who will go to any length to check on them and make sure their lives are full of happiness. No, you can't fix people's problems if they are out of your control, but you can let them talk about them and know that someone understands the things they go through. Your experiences make you who you are as a person and not being able to express how those events make you feel can really make you feel alone.

You have always heard of the saying that "you never know what others are going through" as a reason to not judge others you don't know well. And I'll be the first to say that I can be a pretty judgmental person. But this exercise is a new way to not only allow myself to be a listener to those who need me but also continue to open my eyes to situations I haven't personally experienced and can learn something from. Not everyone has crazy things going on in their life that brings everything to a halt. When people say they are "doing well," they very well may be. But maybe this is your chance to be the person you needed 6 months ago when you were struggling. Always keep your eyes and ears peeled for those who seem to be just fine. One question you ask could provide them with the sigh of relief they have been waiting for.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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