“Hungover and miserable.”
Next time someone asks “how are you?” or “how’s it going?” answer with that and see what happens.
It's a piece of advice I've given for a number of years. Try it. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll generate instant rapport with that person. Whether you're actually hungover and miserable, or not. Try it.
And if you don’t get instant rapport, you'll at least get a laugh, or a smile. And you probably will get a shot at having a real conversation with someone.
Why? It's hard to say, but I think the reason is twofold: (1) it's pretty funny; and (2) by being upfront with your failings, it gives the person you're speaking with an opportunity to drop their guard and their defences and be real.
So why am I telling you this?
Because it highlights one of the social norms and pressures of this world that drives much of the anxiety and stress of our times.
We live in a world — well, at least until a few weeks ago when the pandemic broke out — we lived in a world where the de facto norm was that everything was supposed to be great. Peachy keen. It was uncouth and uncool to be honest with your feelings. That if you weren't great!, you weren't optimal and if you aren’t optimal, then that was "your fault and your burden to bear, and don't harsh my buzz because you can't get your shit together".
Like most people, I fall prey to it as well. When asked "How are you doing?" my natural instinct is always to answer "good" or “well” (because I like being grammatically accurate).
But how often is that truly honest? Well, it's probably not entirely dishonest much of the time, but it's certainly an incomplete answer and probably a misleading answer.
And that focusing on always being good and always being happy and always being composed is a problem. And it's is a problem because it's not real. And because it creates undue social pressures that no one can live up to. It’s the analog equivalent of Instagram.
Nothing is always great. And nothing is always terrible. Life is textured. Life is fluid. Life is better sometimes, and worse other times. And that’s ok. And until we, as a society start truly accepting that, instead of paying lip service to it, then the pressure to always be great! will continue to breed anxiety. And it will continue to cause us to suppress our real feelings. And it’s the very act of suppressing our feelings that really drives depression and anxiety and other mental health conditions.
And if we go even deeper, when you lie about the simple truths as easy as “how are you?”, it starts all relationships off on the wrong foot. And this leads to greater disconnection.
So, as the world we once knew evolves out of this pandemic, we at Field Trip are instituting a new corporate policy. A real policy. One that says that we should always be honest all the time with our feelings and our emotions. Especially with our feelings and our emotions.
Honesty is the best policy.