A good friend of mine suggested that “the next time I go to church I am going to wear a t-shirt that says, ‘Please don’t ask how I’m doing.”
I sympathize. At the same time, “how are you” is near the top of the queue of phrases that come out of my mouth.
In July, as part of our Summer Book Club, we read Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club. In it, Schwalbe tells how he learned that sometimes a more appropriate question to begin with is “Do you want me to ask you how you are doing?”
Sure, this makes perfect sense when, like Schwalbe, you are attempting to be considerate to someone you know is slowly dying of terminal cancer. But what about someone suffering from something that isn’t so obvious? You can’t know. But most of us care enough that we don’t intend something like “how are you doing?” to be part of launching someone deeper into the depths.
So, I am going to work on this. I will practice NOT asking “how are you doing?” as a matter of small talk. I will practice being ready and willing to listen, though, to any friend who needs to be able to speak whatever is on their mind or heart.
And also ready and willing not to listen if they really aren’t ready to talk about it right now.