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How are you?
And not in the “How are you? Fine, and you? I’m good” -kind of way.
But how are you really?
What if the answer to “How are you?” is a 15 minutes long monologue?
When I first came to America, one of the hardest things for me was to learn how to answer the question “How are you?”.
At first, I didn’t understand that “How are you?” is like saying hello. And the only answer is something short and positive and to ask how the other person is doing.
I’m from Finland, and there we don’t say hello to strangers.
Sometimes we don’t even say hello to people we know. Hahaha!
But once we do say hello and ask someone “How are you?” we need to be prepared to find ourselves listening to a 15 minutes long monologue about health issues and family matters. And it’s a monologue you better not interrupt. It’s on you. You asked how the other person is doing.
And no, I’m not kidding.
So when a Finn asks “How are you?” we literally mean it.
And when we’re asked “How are you?”, we either don’t answer, because we’re weirded about the question or we pour our hearts out.
I’m fine. And you? I’m fine. And you? I’m fine. And you?
During the first months of being in America, I answered crazy ways to the question “How are you?”.
At first, I was mumbling because I didn’t know what to answer.
And sometimes it took me forever to answer because I was really thinking “how am I?”.
I actually ordered my coffee like this for quite some time:
– How are you?
– What can I get you?
-… and you? uhh…
I had to practice the “fine, and you?” -answer for months.
It was crazy. I couldn’t understand how it was so difficult to learn.
Especially when it took me just a few practice rounds to learn how to say: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
And what good does that do? One can’t use that as an answer.
It was just so hard to answer “fine, and you?”.
Was I really fine? Was the other person really fine?
Those short dialogues always felt so shallow. I felt like a fraud.
But then after months of struggling with it, I finally got it. With a little help of the fantastic Louis Armstrong.
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do…
Louis Armstrong sings in his song What a wonderful world: “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do. They’re really saying I love you.”
And everything clicked. I felt it.
I realized that “How are you?” is a beautiful way of saying hello whether you know the person or not.
And answering something short and positive and asking how the other person is doing, is a beautiful way of saying hello back.
It’s not superficial like I first thought. It’s actually way more profound than just a simple “hi” or “hello”.
It’s something beautiful.
… They’re really saying I love you
To answer “I’m fine” or “I’m good” is actually good for you, even though you would be feeling a little down.
It’s like a positive affirmation or a mantra you say to yourself and others every day.
I’m good. I’m fine. I’m great.
You don’t have to think about how you feel and enforce that feeling.
It doesn’t matter if you are just ok or feeling angry, frustrated or stressed, it’s not good for you to enforce that. You’re already feeling it, so a little “I’m good!”, or “I’m fine” won’t harm you. It can only uplift your mood.
And to continue that positive affirmation by asking how the other person is doing (even though you know the answer) is reminding you that there are other people too in this world and they need the same positive affirmation during the day like you do.
So if you ask them “…and you?” they get to say their positive affirmation “I’m good, thanks!”.
And to give the gift of lifting someone’s spirit (and your own too!) is love in one of its most beautiful form.
How are you?
To all the wonderful people I pass by each morning.
With love, Cristina
What do you think? Share in the comments.
Or just let me know how you are. And you can answer either in “the Finnish way” or “the American -way”. I like them both.
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Actually no. You’re not just super. You are supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
This post was originally one of the Saturday Letters (I’ve sent to my readers via email).
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