How often do we simply reply with the phrase, “I’m fine.” Now, this may not be the exact verbiage you use. You may say “I’m OK” or “I’m doing well,” but you get the gist of it. There are times in our life that this needs to be the response. It’s artificial small talk that is a necessary evil to move the conversation along. These include brief chats with acquaintances, employees at businesses you may frequent, and coworkers.
There are, however, times when we get this question that the response should be something more profound. This is when a friend is reaching out. It could be when your spouse is catching up with you at the end of the day. Finally, it may be a parent or boss trying to understand how you are genuinely feeling.
Saying “I’m fine” all the time when asked how you are doing by someone who is actually seeking out the information is setting you up for serious defeat down the road. You have to communicate and explain how you feel. Bottling it up inside will make your mind go crazy. The continual closure and lack of communication will cause you to snap. You cannot and will not live a successful life if you try to hold it together all the time.
We all suffer, and most people hide their pain. They may confide in a small, select group of people, but that often occurs few and far between. This leads to the other side of the communication. The receiver of the message. We need to provide feedback to others to help out. We also must be mindful of the attention we are offering the person communicating with us.
There are topics all of us want to mention, but we refrain from expressing it. Also, there are things we want to tell our friends, families, bosses, and colleagues, but for one reason or another, we just tell them “I’m fine.” Lastly, there are times when we finally muster up the courage to divulge what we have been wanting to say, but we realize the person on the other side isn’t ready to hear it. This is often due to nonverbal and verbal cues from the receiver of the message. We may hear fidgety noises in the background if we’re chatting on the phone, signaling we aren’t the center of attention. We might notice the other person looking at their phone and showing us they’re obviously distracted. Finally, we may not be getting texts or responses back in an efficient manner displaying that the person isn’t intent on devoting the time to chat.
Relationships falling anywhere on the spectrum between professional and intimate present these obstacles with regard to communication. It is rare that both parties are engaged in the chat with one of the participants ready to discuss something important, and the other individual eagerly awaiting the message.
Finally, we need to remain vigilant. Subtle messages or hints may be presented to us over periods of time. These are feelers from the opposite party testing the waters of sorts to see if it is OK to explain how they’re really feeling. Someone may be suffering from depression or something close to it. This could lead to a dangerous situation if left unnoticed. The stigma around mental health remains high, despite a lot of recent progress. When someone is dancing around the issue and reluctant to speak to us truthfully, it’s imperative we do everything we can to get the person to divulge their message.
There are a few ways we can do this. First, always extend proper courtesy to the person speaking to you. This shouldn’t be something you extend here and there. It needs to be a constant in your life with all the relationships you manage. It’s also the only thing you can always control. It will be huge for those who speak to you because they’ll know you will always be there to listen. People will pick up on this over time and have confidence in you. This is a barrier you can put up, and one that you can keep out of your relationships.
Next, always provide availability. This doesn’t need to be instantaneous, nor should that be expected. But, it should be within reasonable time frames. Anyone in any type of relationship will take notice if you are haphazard in your replies. Intermittently responding, or no response at all is a disrespectful standard to set. It will discourage anyone from even attempting to confide in you.
Finally, the most difficult part. The part you cannot control. You need to be mindful of the person you are speaking with in terms of their delivery. Examine their nonverbal and verbal behavior. Is anything new or different? Check for understanding. But, do this with open-ended questions. Also, don’t be afraid to circle back and present your question in another form. Maybe the individual wasn’t ready to talk at first, but has become comfortable after a few minutes.
Communication on its surface is easy, and it has never been easier to converse. The problem is there are a lot of things beneath the surface of communication that we need to be mindful of. We must understand this if we are to manage effective relationships. We also need to implement these behaviors so we can effectively help our loved ones and be there when they’re in need. This takes our relationships to another level, and the dividends it will pay will be huge. Be the person others seek out.