“How are you doing?” It’s a question we ask, or are asked, multiple times a day. The expected answer is “fine” (other acceptable answers may now include “busy,” “stressed,” or “tired.”) We aren’t necessarily looking to have a long discussion on how the other person is doing. In Western culture, the question is simply part of the introductory conversational formula that leads to the actual topic to be discussed.
“How are you doing?” Tim asked.
“Fine,” Ann replied.
“That’s great,” Tim said. “The reason I called is …”
Considered another way, the question can have deep significance. How are you doing? And, maybe more importantly, how can you tell?
Every weekday morning at 6:50am I jump on Zoom with a couple of fellow entrepreneurs for what we call a “lightning round.” It’s a 10-minute meeting in which we each take three minutes to report out on our personal and organizational status, goals, and accomplishments. We begin by stating, “On a scale of 1-10 I’m a (fill in the blank) today.” This is interesting information for the group, but on its own it is meaningless. It begs the question, “Based on what?” So, the next sentence is always, “I feel (blank) because (blank). For example, I might say, “On a scale of 1-10 I’m a nine right now. I feel excited because we just landed a new client.” This makes it clear that the answer to the “how are you doing” question is based on emotion—how I feel. The rest of our report goes on to fill in other data and metrics to round out the picture of how we, and our organizations, are doing.
What is the basis for your answer to the question, “How are you doing?” Is it financial, emotional, relational, based on your health, your goals, your accomplishments? Or is it just a hunch?
I have a friend who is never doing well. It’s not that her life is so difficult, she just perceives it that way. I get the idea that somewhere along the line she discovered that she received more positive attention when she was sick, hurting, sad, or struggling, so now that’s her default setting. Her answer to the question isn’t based on the reality of external data, it’s based on what will get her the most sympathy from others. Honestly, that’s no way to live.
Emotions are valuable and shouldn't be ignored. They can give us important insights into what's happening in our souls. But, they can also be based on all kinds of crazy things that aren't true.
I might feel great because I think I just won the lottery, only to discover I was one number off. I might feel sad because I assume my best friend's comment was disdaining only to discover that he didn't mean it that way at all. Often our feelings are based on what we think might happen in the future. I feel scared because I don't know if our income will meet our expenses next month. I feel angry because I assume my boss will give me a negative performance appraisal.
Unless we dig deeper, exploring why we feel the way we feel and to what extent it's based on reality, our emotions aren't very good measurements for how we're actually doing.
So. How are you doing? Based on what? And here’s the kicker question: What would it take to raise your number by two?
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