I speak for a living. Dave says I speak all my life, which I believe he doesn't mean in quite the same way I do, but I love him just the same. Since I speak at keynotes, speak to people via webinars, and speak with people in workshops, teacher observations/reflection conversations, etc., I think about words a bunch. By "a bunch", I mean I am a bit obsessed with words, their meanings, and their subtle connotations.
"Fine" is the word I would like to discuss today.
While grabbing some things at the grocery store this morning, I noticed the cashier who was checking out the gentleman in front of me seem a bit downtrodden-looking. When she began checking me out, she asked me, "How are you doing today?" and I answered, honestly, "Lots of things to do, but I am ready to do them! This is my first stop. How are you?" She answered, "Fine" but not believable by any stretch. I pushed, which Dave says is the story of my life (blame the Master's in Counseling or better yet, blame my concerned/nosy nature), by asking, "Are your sure?" She looked me in the eyes like she had found someone who actually cared and she said, "We are told we are supposed to always be optimistic." I nodded, said, "Even if it's a lie?" She nodded. I said, "I get that, but I am wondering if there is a compromise." (I'm pausing to let you know there was nobody in line behind me that I was currently annoying with my psycho-analysis.) "What might be some options like: "It's been a rough morning but I'm keeping a positive outlook that it is going to get better and better." She smiled and said, "I love that. It's truthful and it's positive!"
I started thinking about the number of times we say "fine" in answer to the question: How are you doing? I would love to do a study on how many times people say the word without meaning it.
What contrasts this story of a stranger questioning a stranger from many others is that people say "fine" to people with whom they are in relationships, even when it is not the truth. What's worse is that the word "fine", when said with derision, sarcasm, passive-aggressiveness, etc., can have serious detrimental effects on the relationship.
Think back to the last time you said "fine" to a co-worker, spouse, friend, significant other, etc. when you didn't really mean it. What happened afterwards? The "other" likely either got upset that you weren't being honest or, worse yet, gratefully said, "Ok, good, I'm glad all is okay" because they didn't notice.
I am firm believer in discussing the elephant in the room. I have been accused once or twice of being good with conflict. Not true. I am NOT good with conflict, but I am worse with under the carpet conflict. Let's get it out there. Let's talk about it, so the next time we see each other (whether that is in our next meeting, in the hallway of our school or business, or in the shower we share), it is not uncomfortable. Lest anyone think I'm advocating showering with a co-worker, I believe that would be uncomfortable, and I trust you know which scenario accompanied each relationship.
So, when a friend recently said, "Fine" when I asked, at the end of a semi-difficult conversation, "Are we okay?", I heard the undertones of "We are anything but fine", so my next question was "What can we do to agree we won't agree on every point but that we'll love each other at the end of this conversation and truly be 'fine' the next time we see each other in person?" That question changed the playing field. We were no longer allowed to simply say a one-word-dishonest response but instead were required to search for a solution or two or three.
Just for today, perhaps try it out with someone who answers with that one-word show-stopper by delving more deeply.
In the meantime, I hope your day is just fine and mine is, too!!