Learning how to share when things aren’t going well

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This is the first in a series of items, where we plan to explore the real challenge many of us face around admitting things aren't fine. This week we will look at why we say things are fine when they are far from fine.

Why do we say we are fine when we're not?

We have all done it, life is far from fine and someone asks 'how's things?' and we reply 'yeah fine'. Why do we do that? Is it we are all guilty of asking that question and want people to say its fine as if it's not fine we don't know what to say next? Or is it we ask the question, but the person doesn't want to unburden themselves as its become as normal to say 'how's things' as hello, its become a greeting as opposed to a question so again we don't feel we can say how things really are.

If things aren't fine though, how can we start a conversation about what is bothering us, or how can someone create that safe place where we can share how we really feel? Maybe we need to consider some of the reasons we stay quiet when really, we maybe need to talk.

We don't want to be a burden.

We worry about whatever it is that's getting to us may be trivial by someone else, that it will probably resolve itself so no point talking about it.

We don't want to appear as if we aren't in control. It may be what is facing us is frightening or makes us angry and we don't want to talk about it as we don't want others to see we are affected by our emotions.

'' Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around''

Leo Buscaglia

Sometimes we do need space to process

Why do we say we are fine when we’re not?

Sometimes we do need space to process whatever is going on for ourselves and opening up to someone who may try and offer a solution as opposed to just listen makes us clam up.

Sometimes we don't want to worry the other person so say it's fine to reassure them.

Sometimes saying we are fine when we aren't is a way of actually blocking people out, a way of having people back off, as we don't want them to ask us how we are as we don't want to talk about the fact that we aren't fine.

Sometimes its easier to say you are fine because you just don't know how to express what is wrong, so its easier to say your fine than explain why you're not fine.


Sometimes we use the term 'I am fine', accompanied by a tone of voice which suggests we are far from fine because we expect the other person to work out why we are not fine.

Depending on who we are and what we do it maybe we are the one who is there for others, has the answers, keeps the ship afloat, so saying we aren't fine we may feel we are letting people down, we may even feel we are being selfish if we open up to someone and share how we feel.

We can be conditioned to always project as happy, upbeat, positive 'laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone' how many times have we heard that phrase? 

Is it any wonder, we sometimes find it hard when someone asks, 'How's things' to reply 'fine' as opposed to the truth which sometimes maybe 'Not Good, not fine at all'

So, what can we do?

 Because saying we are fine when we are not, isn't always best for us or those around us.

Begin by making it an honest enquiry not a greeting, and if the person says they aren't fine, don't jump in with solutions, just listen, one of the things people say they value when they are not fine is compassion from others, a feeling someone cared, and you know, often that meant simply taking the time to listen.

Next time we will explore how to open up and talk about how things are when they are not fine and dispense the myth that you are being a burden by being human as all of us at some time are not fine and need someone to listen, this doesn't diminish who we are. We all have it in us to be there for someone else and to allow someone to be there for us.

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