“How are you?
“All ok man! I’m doing great! Oh, everything is awesome! How are you doing buddy?”
How honest are you?
I had the opportunity of listening to a young lady speaking on this topic yesterday which triggered these thoughts. She did rather well. I lauded her mentally for bringing forth her thoughts in a manner befitting her age and experiences.
However, by now, I trust my grey strands of hair to put a burden on my few remaining grey cells to make me ponder further. As I sit watching the sun drench my courtyard, I go back to this topic to add my own thoughts to the same.
Spiraling thoughts – the wall grows higher
In today’s times, layers and layers of pancakes are finding their way out of silver screens onto the facades of many. Life has become akin to window dressing rather than sharing and opening up. These layers also come to the fore in terms of how we communicate our state of being to others. Sharing is no longer caring, or is it?
What if he takes advantage of what I am going through? What if she talks about it to others? Why can’t they mind their own business and leave me to my myself? These and other such questions take predominance and create a wall between what we want to blurt out and what we end up saying when people ask us, “How are you?”
And this wall gets constructed in record time and with the least of mental resources put in place. I am not debating the goodness or relevance of this wall. Nor am I trying to obviate the veiled dishonesty or honesty that comes forth as a bridge or wall gets constructed.
Why should I?
The mental oasis
Each person is entitled to his or her own mental space and privacy. Every person has his or her way of retorting, reacting, responding or shutting someone off. There is no thumb rule that guides the answer to this question.
Say, for instance, someone asks you the same question. You may or may not want to reveal how you are feeling at any given point of time to the person addressing you. Your answer will look for a pancake layer depending on the levels of trust and comfort shared with him or her; almost instantly.
On some days, you may have already resurfaced from what was going on till yesterday. As a result, you decide to choose not to talk about it anymore. Conversely, you may still be grappling with issues and do not want to feel weak and succumb to your pressures. What happens then?
If you respond to the query, you may find your self-control barriers giving way when you hear a kind voice saying “How are you?”
It happens to the best of us.
Either you rattle off all that is on the top of our head in the uncut version or you recede into a dark tunnel from where you call out, “I am fine.”
Sometimes, the person at the other end is a parent, a well-wisher or a very loved one whom you cannot ward off with your monosyllabic retorts. They will feel the quiver in your voice and hear the unsaid. In such situations, they may end up getting more concerned than before as they start imagining things far removed from what you may be going through. This is a ‘lose-lose’ situation for all.
Let’s stick to the good old adage
So, how honest or dishonest can you choose to be at such times about how you are? As far as I am concerned, I am really poor at using makeup or cosmetics. Even if I tried my best, my first layer of pancake would fall off in a jiffy exposing my state of mind or wellbeing to others.
So why try?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, honesty remains the best policy. It holds true even today. Like a good moral science student, I have also carried this adage with me. Till date, it has failed to make it to the ‘excess baggage’ category and I wouldn’t want to leave it en route in life.
So, for me, if someone actually wants to know the answer to ‘how are you?’ I will not hold back; rather I will let the steam go off. Pressure cooking is anyway the forte of kitchens and cooks so why shouldn’t I blow the whistle if the listener really cares to know? Maybe I will find a solution to what I may be going through in the course of my communication with the listener.
Over the years, I have learned that out of a thousand people you probably know, only one or two will really care about your rambles. These people are the ones you can be unguarded with and say what you want to without any frills about how you are. They will listen to you and give you a shoulder to lean on. They may or may not be of any help, but so what, at least they cared to listen – that’s more than enough!
There will be a few who may have called you with an intent to gossip. They will ask you the same question. You can easily filter their intent through the tone of their voice. Such people will hang up on you with some polite talk or pretext very soon. Their words will change the moment you start narrating your second problem after asking for help or a solution to the first one on your list. You are safe with such fake people as they care less about what you may be going through. They will vanish the moment they feel that they may have to contribute in any way to your current state of affairs.
Then, there will be many others who will ask you how you are and go on to tell you about how ‘they are’. This will happen even before you can start your reply or ask about their well-being. Such people are the easiest to deal with your honesty flag brandished high. They care little, hardly listen, and do not allow you to tell them what you may want to say. They are so careless about what you said that you have to remember your state of mind. What if he or she calls back after some days to ask again, “How are you?”
Well, I may be right or wrong in my view. But when have unbridled and random thoughts been reined in by the benchmarks of righteousness?