“Fine is not a feeling.”
When I teach “Resiliency Awareness Training” to groups, the response to this statement always stands out to me. It’s one of the few times in the class where I hear people mutter almost in unison something similar to, “Got that right.”
Yet so many people answer the question, “How are you doing?” with the word “Fine.”
But what does that really mean?
“Fine” is a mask we hide behind to avoid having deeper or more intimate conversations about our emotions, to avoid conflict, or to simply avoid talking altogether.
If you can’t feel “fine”, you also can’t really discuss it.
Joy. Peace. Sad. Happy. Grateful. Angry. Hurt. Anxious. Eager. Disappointed. Broken. Upset. Confused. Amused. Wanted. Awkward. Appreciated. Relieved. Afraid. Overwhelmed. Lonely.
Those are some of the emotions you can feel. They are also some of the hidden meanings to the word “fine”.
Most people interpret “fine” to mean “good”, but does it really mean that? The Mental Health Foundation of the UK did a study entitled, “I’m Fine.” Here’s what they found:
• The average adult will say “I’m fine” 14 times a week. Only 19% really mean it the way we naturally interpret it.
• 1 in 10 surveyed said they always lie about their emotional state.
• 59% of people expect the answer to be a lie when we ask others “How are you feeling?”
• 44% of the participants said they have regretted asking somebody how they were doing after receiving an answer they weren’t prepared for.
The next time you ask someone, “How are you doing?”, don’t take “Fine.” for an answer. Create a safe space for people to give you a real answer. Be the person who listens.
The next time someone asks you the same question, let go of the need to be superficial. Respond with a real emotion and see where the conversation goes. If you’re joyful, you may spread joy that day. If you’re sad, you may get a needed smile. No matter what, you’ll be more than “fine”.
And if you’re reading this and you need someone who wants to hear why you’re feeling anything but “fine”, I’m here to listen and support you. Doesn’t matter the time of night or day.