How Are You?

It’s a question we ask each other in greeting, and one that we regularly throw out various programmed responses to.  “Fine, thanks, and how are you?”, we bat in return; “I’m great, thank you, and you?”, we bubble.  But the question is more than a greeting – it’s checking in.  The essence of it is diagnostic, considerate, connective.  Or it should be – at least assuming that the person asking the question has the capacity themselves to absorb the answer.
In circles where serious human development is about to be undertaken, the question is often used as a barometer to measure the starting point of the team.  Knowing what you’re working with is one of the first levels of awareness required to be effective.  For better or worse, nothing has ever been achieved by a human being that wasn’t somehow connected to “how they were doing” at the time.
So how are you doing?  Really?
If you pause for a moment to hear your own answer, even if you tell no one about it – you are worth your own honesty.  If you are part of a family or team who you value, and with whom you’d like to continue to be positively productive, then I’d suggest that an honest check-in is worth all your while occasionally.  It helps to know what you’re working with.  And how often do we share something we thought we were alone in only to have someone right next to us confirm “Me too!”.
If your honest answer was a swift and energetic fist-pump of excitement at the day/week/month/year that lies ahead, then you’re good to go!  The world needs you!  If you were slightly less enthusiastic in your response or struggled to find the words to describe how you’re doing at all, then I’d like to refer you to what I think is a stellar article in the New York Times.
Written in April by Adam Grant, it talks about the dulling of our motivation and focus.  It addresses a diminishing of joy, a lack of enthusiasm, and trouble concentrating.  It points out that the first step to understanding where we are and what to do about it is to name it, and in doing so, to share our humanness so that we know we’re not alone.  It is a beautifully written article, and I knew when I read it that it was describing what I myself have been feeling and what I see in many of the teammates I’m working with.  I suspected it may be more valuable today for me to direct you to Adam’s words than fully take up space with my own because I believe “How are you?” is one of the most valuable questions we can ask if you’re invested in hearing the honest answer.
A barometer measures pressure, which seems apt for the question at hand.  The degree of pressure we’re under influences our ability to function.  Some people thrive with a little.  Many struggle with a lot.  The kind of pressure we’ve felt over the past year has been non-descript and ongoing.  It has built and endured in ways that we feel unprepared to identify or process.  Naming it may help us to realise that we do actually have some experience that’s useful in handling it.  There is also something uniquely de-pressurising to hear someone else say “Me too.”  This is not an exercise in finding a common excuse.  This is an exercise in some of our most powerful human forces – empathy and compassion.  It is connecting, rather than dividing; and connection is where we draw our human strength from.  Strength to figure it out.  Strength to find the next step.  Strength to reconsider and move forward.  Together.
You will find Adam’s article here.

by Christen Killick

May 3rd, 2021

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