Pleasantries versus honesty

Imagine you’re walking down the street and you see someone you know. Rather than speaking with honesty, the pleasantries begin:

“Hi! How are you?”

“Hey! I’m good. How are you?”

“I’m good”.

This exchange takes seconds then you each move on, both wishing you’d been able to speak with honesty and say:

“Hey! Not so good. My stomach hurts. How are you?”

“Sorry to hear about your stomach. I’m feeling kind of sad today, as I just heard one of my friends is in the hospital”.

“Oh, that sounds rough”.

This type of honest exchange would require significantly more time to engage in. Stopping to learn how someone was actually feeling would be difficult if you were running late for a meeting, for example. In this instance, apologizing for your inability to stop would be appropriate.

I was walking through a grocery store once when I saw someone I recognized. They stopped and said:

“Hi! How are you?”

The answer I provided shocked them enough that they weren’t quite sure how to answer:

“Not so good. I haven’t been sleeping well”.

I knew that answer would likely throw this person off guard. In fact, this person looked at me as if momentarily stunned. However, that didn’t stop me from speaking with honesty. I wasn’t “fine” – I felt exhausted and stressed. This person muttered something about being sorry to hear that, then moved on.

Perhaps it wasn’t fair of me to not stick with societal norms. Of course, how does change happen if no one is willing to shake things up a bit?





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