I have just read an article in Psychologies magazine that has inspired me to write this. I love it when that happens – when I read something and feel I have something to add. The article was about being ‘fine’. They always say that if a woman ever says she is ‘fine’ then the husband or partner is in trouble – as ‘fine’ can be a mask to hide true, inner feelings.
The article suggested that it is better to be honest when people ask if you are okay – tell them you are feeling rubbish/down/depressed etc. I guess it depends on the person that has asked you and the situation. I studied spoken communication at university for my dissertation – and it does seem that certain phrases are asked out of politeness or to invite a deeper, more meaningful conversation. Women are always said to be a more ‘polite’ conversationalist and I found that from my research. That is politeness translates as being cooperative, formal and inviting. Women like to include others into conversations and a simple,
‘How are you?’
‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’
can do this. It did always amuse when I studied gender differences because a male conversation of:
can so exactly the same thing! So if this ‘politeness’ is more about being honest and straight to the point, then males may have it down to a tea (or a beer!) But let’s stick with this idea of being ‘fine’ – and within both genders. The article suggested ‘fine’ to be an acronym, which I thought was quite clever. Because even if we say are fine, we are really feeling a mash-up of feelings – and you could argue that we all are, all the time.
F *cked up
Is it better to be honest and say ‘Actually, I’m feeling kind of emotional’? Like I said above, it does depend on who it is and where you are. I would want a friend or family member to tell me what they were really feeling – even if it wasn’t a convenient time or location in fact. Sometimes, though, you just want small-talk though and keeps people at that ‘acquaintance’ level – and we all need those.
Lately, I’ve had a couple of neighbours confide truths to me. I didn’t ask for it or particularly invite it – well I didn’t think I did anyway! One neighbour on Monday, confided that she had cancer and her latest check-up was yesterday. I only went outside to get my sunglasses from my car so that I could read in the sun. Irony alert – that by the time we had finished talking, the sun had gone in! I liked the fact that she spoke to me about it though, really. I feel I know her better. If she had said she was ‘fine’ and then I heard her health news from someone else, I would have felt that I wasn’t a person she could tell. The downside is, it has now gone a few notches up from general neighbour chat and I must remember to ask her how her check-up went. The pressure is on to not feel like a bad neighbour.
Another neighbour, a few weeks previous, confided in me about his wife leaving him for another man. Again, I was just getting out of my car – I think I had just come from work. We had the small talk about ‘glad the day was over and I could relax now’ etc. It somehow got onto the fact that he now lived alone and his wife had left him. This may have been a time when I wished he had just said he was ‘fine’ – as I didn’t really know what to say! I mean what do you say? ‘There are plenty more fish in the sea!’ or ‘Maybe she will come back’? Awkward. But, maybe it made him feel better to tell someone and he was sick of saying that he was just ‘fine’.
It’s okay to not be fine. I always say that talking about things is human nature and we need to do it. We are social creatures and sometimes a chat – whether it be to a close friend or stranger – is all we need.