Why you should not ask: “How are you feeling today?”

10 Aug

I’m borrowing this thoughtful and thought-provoking essay for you today because it will strike a chord for those who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness – and may help to surprise and enlighten those who haven’t.

It’s called “Never ask ‘How are you feeling today?'” by Janet Miserandino, whose daughter Christine is the founder of one of my favourite websites, But You Don’t Look Sick? Janet writes:

“It’s taken me a long time to get out of the automatic habit of saying, ‘How are you?’ when I see someone. That question would be all right to ask most healthy people, because the spontaneous response of ‘Fine!’ would be appropriate.

“I have discovered that people who are ill hate that simple question. Most of the time the answer is not ‘Fine!’ and yet they feel obligated to answer with that very response, so as not to disappoint. When I questioned my daughter Christine about giving such a positive response on a day when she felt just awful, she said: “Mom, people don’t always want to know the real answer to that question. Also, who really wants to go through a litany of symptoms and aches and pains? It’s easier to just say-‘Fine!’ You have to pick and choose whom to be honest with and who really wants that quick succinct answer – ‘Fine!’

“Recently, my 80-year old mom has been recuperating from major knee surgery. At the beginning of her recuperation, when I went into her hospital room I slipped back into the bad habit and the cliché of saying: ‘Hi Mom, how are you?’ She would then tell me one or many adjectives that fit the description of lousy, and our time together inevitably started off on a negative note.

“Now, I begin the visit by asking: ‘How was your day today? Anybody call or visit?’ I get lots more information and at this point, I know how she feels and when she is having less pain. As most of you know, pain has a way of showing itself on your face. It doesn’t need an announcement that it is here.

“So the next time someone asks you: ‘How are you?’ – be patient.  It’s become more of a greeting than a true inquiry. And the next time you see someone you know who is sick or recuperating, ask ‘What’s new?” or ‘How was your day?’  If they want you to know about their health, they will tell you.

“So to all of you out there: “How was your day?”….. Great, I hope.”

by Janet Miserandino © 2005

See also “You look great! – and other things you should never say to a heart patient and “But you don’t look sick”


What do you think?  Share your opinion below, or return to homepage


Never ask – “How are you feeling today?”
It’s taken me a long time to get out of the automatic habit of saying, “How are you?” when I see someone. That question would be all right to ask most healthy people because the spontaneous response of “fine” would be appropriate.
I have discovered that people who are ill hate that simple question. Most of the time the answer is not “fine” and yet they feel obligated to answer with that very response, so as not to disappoint. When I questioned my daughter Christine about giving such a positive response, on a day when she felt just awful, she said “Mom, people don’t always want to know the real answer to that question. Also, who really wants to go through a litany of symptoms and aches and pains? It’s easier to just say-fine.” You have to pick and choose whom to be honest with and who really wants that quick succinct answer- “fine.”
Recently, my 80 year old mom has been recuperating from major knee surgery. At the beginning of her recuperation, when I went into her hospital room I slipped back into the bad habit and the cliché of saying “hi Mom, how are you?” She would then tell me one or many adjectives that fit the description of lousy and our time together inevitably started off on a negative note.
Now, I begin the visit by asking “How was your day today? Anybody call or visit?” I get lots more information and at this point, I kind of know how she feels and when she is having less pain. As most of you know- pain has a way of showing itself on your face. It doesn’t need an announcement that it is here.
So the next time someone asks you “How are you?” – be patient, it’s become more of a greeting than a true inquiry. And the next time you see someone you know who is sick or recuperating ask “What is new?” or “How was your day?” If they want you to know about their health, they will tell you.
So to all of you out there- “How was your day?”….. Great, I hope.
by Janet Miserandino © 2005

2 Responses to “Why you should not ask: “How are you feeling today?””

  1. monica nanamo August 13, 2009 at 3:45 am #

    Hello – great site,
    This is my biggest beef with people – they look at me and don’t see what is wrong with me. I have handicap parking, I try not to use but if I have to I will – and so many times I have been asked “Are you really handicapped?” and i get so mad and scream at them. One lady I told her “It’s stupid people like you that doesn’t know there is more to being handicapped then what the eye can see. You don’t know me, so why judge me? You don’t know what I have been thru. My daughter gets mad at me for going after people. She says “Mom why let them upset you like that? Not doing you any good!” so now i just say to them “You know what? God does bless stupid people so god bless you……” but that is so wrong for people to say “well you don’t look sick”. Oh yeah, come to the doc’s office with me, let them show you my records which is about 3 or maybe 4 books big now. Let them show you my echo and see that my heart doesn’t work, it doesnt pump out blood. Come feel the device I now have to help prevent sudden cardiac death…..but once again it all falls back to being under-educated on heart disease and women. Anyways great site – bookmarked it, love it and thank you
    god bless
    surviving heart disease one day at a time
    with trigger04/08
    for 10 years

    monica whalen
    georgia

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Living with a Broken Heart - September 29, 2011

    [...] Physically, you wouldn’t think something has happened to me. You might even say I look fine. Even a doctor, if they don’t look too deep, won’t find any evidence of a heart attack. Yes, I know, I don’t look sick. But, healing is not just about the body. A lot of the damage is done to the mind and heart. And that’s where I am still quite broken. Broken in a way most people won’t understand. Unless you want to risk opening a Pandora’s box of issues, don’t ask me how I feel today. [...]

    Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,107 other followers

%d bloggers like this: