“How’s it going?”
“How the blood hell are ya?”
“How are you travelling?”
If you live in Australia it’s likely that you are greeted with at least one of these phrases every day. At the coffee shop, every morning when you rock up to work and when you get home. It’s just another way of saying hello.
Personally, I’ve always found it strange that asking someone how they are has persisted as a casual greeting for so long in a nation that is so quick to dub anyone who speaks up as a whinger and where people are practically born saying “she’ll be right”.
Do you want to know how I really am or am I going to cop an eye roll for complaining? What kind of trap am I walking into by responding to a simple greeting?
Which is why I present to you an alternative; stop the mental gymnastics each time you are asked this question and answer the question honestly and without fear of being called out for whining.
The desire to complain is built into us but by insisting on treating it as a dirty little secret we are doing ourselves and those around us a disservice by not encouraging honest conversation about where our mental health is at.
The reason we treat having a whinge as a guilty pleasure is because so much of our culture is rooted in the idea of toughing it out and not bothering those around you.
Terms like “crybaby” are thrown around playgrounds and phrases such as “get over it” are routinely touted as good, character-building advice. You could argue that these are only said to children in response to matters that are of very little significance and that teach patience and prevent entitlement. While that is true in some cases, I fear that this is not the case and you only have to look into the underreporting of phenomenons such as workplace bullying to see that this attitude is clearly rampant in areas of importance and that we have been conditioned from an extremely young age to not speak up unless absolutely needed.
As a result, most of us don’t even think about the question “how are you” when it’s put to us, the words “good” or “fine” simply tumble out of our mouths before we have the chance to think.
But, whinging does actually have its merits, for instance, sharing something you are worried or upset about with someone you trust can help you gain perspective and help reduce rising stress levels and even better, whinging to someone who has the power to fix the issue can create lasting change.
In a now notorious incident at the TradeMutt office last year, I showed up for work after waking up with nasty hay fever symptoms including a rash, sneezing and watery eyes. When Dan asked me how I was going when I walked in, it took me about 30 seconds after automatically saying “fine” to recalibrate my answer and say “actually, really not good” and explain how I was feeling and that I needed to go to the doctor.
And, while I would like to believe that I am the only one who has ever experienced this, it isn’t uncommon to discover that someone really isn’t fine at all as a conversation goes on. It speaks to the fact that we need to work ourselves up to speak up and be given permission to have a whinge.
At TradeMutt, we always talk about starting conversations and for many people around Australia the easiest way to do this is to actually engage when asking “how are you?”. We are lucky to live somewhere where people ask this question so frequently and we need to stop being afraid to answer it honestly.
Do you catch yourself falling into the trap of saying you’re fine even when you’re not?
If you are struggling and ever need a whinge or a yarn, text or call our TIACS support line on 0488 846 988 to access free mental health support.