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I see you, but don't ask me how I'm doing

June 7, 2019

About the Author

photo of Adam P. Stern, MD

Adam P. Stern, MD, Contributor

Adam P. Stern, MD, is the director of psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has published in journals … See Full Bio
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Kellie Rowland
July 17, 2019

Great article Adam. So true.

June 24, 2019

Not sure if you read comments, but I just want to share that I too am a RCC patient and a physician (well a resident, but close enough). I found this article by accident as I am anxiously waiting for my follow-up scan results. Just want to thank you for all the tweets/articles you have written that have made me feel less alone in this thing. Sincerely.

June 10, 2019

I agree with this article. Authentically connecting in the workplace is important for emotional well being. I feel that sometimes in North American (US and Canadian ) workplaces, being authentic is a sign of weakness or being negative and this is not the case. Everyone has those down days or days when we feel that things are not going well and it’s important to express it.
I worked in another country at one time and was around many Europeans and conversation with them was refreshing. I remember having a conversation with one German colleague about a job offer she had accepted in haste. I gave her the customary “wow that’s great”! She then replied thoughtfully “hmm I don’t know if it’s great. And we went on to have an honest discussion about her situation of being in the proverbial “rock and a hard place” that I could relate to. After that honest discussion I didn’t feel so alone.

Anne Enigma
June 7, 2019

I’ve been chronically ill for a couple of decades so there’s few truly “fine” days, but life goes on. My standby answer to “How are you?” is “Hanging in there… you?” Most times it’s sufficient and I get the transactional, “I’m fine”. Every now and then someone replies with honest answer, and very rarely I’ll get the odd look of ‘Ya crazy? Just say “I’m fine” like a normal human’.

At the very least I don’t feel like I’m lying. True, some days I could live without a novel length reply but it all evens out in the greater scheme

Marilyn Morris
June 6, 2019

Adam, I agree with you. I often don’t like the “ how are you” questions when it’s obvious the person doesn’t mean it and wouldn’t stop to listen. In many cases, I’ve learned not to take it literally. It’s just a greeting, but there’s also the fact that I often don’t want to say that I feel terrible or just came from an upsetting Dr appointment so I answer by saying “ ok, how are you?” Sometimes neither is true. I’m not ok and I may not want to know how they are if it’s a superficial contact. I think you’re right. Often best to just say hi or good morning.

June 5, 2019

This would be a good article to be posted on LinkedIn.

June 4, 2019

Phoniness in all forms is exhausting, but I think there is room to interpret some of this a linguistic phrasing, casual acknowledgement as a cultural greeting like “hello” or “good day”.
It is incumbent upon us to build support networks and reach out for help, we cannot expect all the people we pass, all from different walks of life, to parse their words or anticipate what you feel is appropriate. I think (within reason) we have to consider intent. In times of need, friends often abandon us, and strangers present themselves.

I think there are also people who are lonely and suffering and feel invisible when they encounter random people during the course of their day that don’t meet their eye, acknowledge their existence with a “how’s it going” and perhaps a smile. I’ve heard these mentioned numerous times from people with clinical depression.

Let’s just all give each other the benefit of the doubt, try not to be overly literal, and be open to being more kind to people in need.

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