On seeing red when someone asks if you’re feeling better.

I like to think of myself as being pretty mild-mannered.

I don’t fly into a furious rage if someone cuts me up in traffic.

I definitely don’t throw a hissy fit when someone uses the last of the toilet roll without replacing it.

And I only get slightly miffed (honest) when a telemarketer calls at an inappropriate moment (although, frankly, isn’t any moment inappropriate when it comes to telemarketers?).

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However, lest this should paint me as some paragon of patience, there does actually happen to be one scenario which makes me see red, in a furious, livid and really rather ashamed kind of way.

Maybe it’s just me, but I do get disproportionately angry when, after I’ve been going through a bad time, someone who really ought to know me well asks ‘Are you feeling better?’.

I shouldn’t blame them of course.

They’ve almost certainly said it innocently.

Unfortunately, however, in the mind of the receiver this very innocent little question can translate itself into ‘I’m really not sure there was anything terribly wrong with you anyway, but I’m assuming you’re now over it’.

I know it’s wrong in so many ways to interpret it in this way, but that’s the danger of closed questions.

They make assumptions.

They discourage meaningful answers.

And they make me cross.

So if you really want to know how I feel, please do the proper open-ended thing.

Ask ‘How are you feeling?’, then you’re more likely to get the truth from me.

It’s good for us to connect with others, and the more we do it, the better we’re likely to feel.

It’s crucial to remember, though, that good connection is just as much about quality as it is about quantity.

A good radio interviewer asks open-ended questions, rather than ones which solicit no more than one word answers, so perhaps today’s a day to make like a broadcaster?

As for me, am I feeling better?

Well I was until you asked me.

6 thoughts on “On seeing red when someone asks if you’re feeling better.

  1. I think you react this way only when you DO NOT FEEL BETTER…otherwise they would probably not ask because it would “SHOW”….but I agree…leaving the question open ended gives you space for expression.
    So…..”how ware you feeling today” ?? ;-))

  2. Ha. SO true for me too Jon! I think ‘Are you feeling better’ also puts pressure on because it makes it clear that ‘better’ is the correct answer.
    Having said that, I do understand why open questions can be scary for the person asking them at times.
    Personally I try and answer honestly, but I also try and inject some positivity into my answer eg, “I don’t feel great at all thanks, but I’m working on trying to be gentle on myself and it seems to be helping’.
    So I kind of try and look after the person asking the question so that they don’t think they have to solve all my problems for me, if that makes sense. In my better moments anyway…
    But equally I’m not always in the right place to cope with asking a very depressed or anxious friend an open question. In case they’re expecting me to give a full and intelligent response! So it’s a bit like asking a question in French. When the French person answers fluently, well that’s the end of THAT conversation!
    Sally S

  3. I would say this is the question people don’t really want you to answer anyway, it’s usually a casual polite phatic communion thing. I totally agree with Sally above; your answer needs not to be more than the asker can handle.
    See if you can develop a stock response that will come out of you in a civil tone even if you are triggered to fury – something like “It’s a long process, you know, but I’ll keep cracking on with it.”
    Having said all that I’m also aware that I might be doing that infuriating thing where you wanted to vent and find empathy and instead I am offering solutions!

  4. I agree but then I struggle with any questions with the word feeling in it! How are you feeling is a difficult one and is difficult to sum up without launching into details. Are you feeling better is OK to answer if it is a YES but if a no then I would feel the need to explain which is not always easy. I would prefer questions like, how has your week been or I had to choose! Difficult for friends I think . More so I really dislike intensely the parting words ‘take care’ . Not even sure why but it really gets to me.

  5. Agree with you Jon. It’s a difficult situation for questioner and for me to respond well too…and sometimes you feel it’s a bit of a glib question…they don’t really want an answer that’s more than ‘fine thanks, how are you?’!!!
    And the ‘take care’ spoken as you are leaving someone, has become too easy to say, like ‘have a nice day’….it has become meaningless….a bit of a throw-away remark.

    I have often replied to the ‘how are you’ question with ‘fair to middling’ or to friends or my GP…’fair to rubbish’…depending on how bad it is!!

  6. Absolutely agree! Haha.
    It’s a patronising enquiry, designed to belittle the person by invalidating their initial response.
    The answer is to turn the question around and ask why they thought your anger was invalid. On a good day I might do that!
    But ask me “How are you?” and I often have absolutely no idea how to respond because I live with Borderline Personality Disorder. Do you mean at this very moment? Today in general? My emotional journey so far today? This week? My overall life situation as of now? Or my hopes and fears for the future?
    It’s complex and quite exhausting for us to tease out what the person’s enquiry is actually aimed at, so we say, “Fine” too often. I’ve started saying, “Oh, you know…” and changing the subject. There are really not enough hours in the day to unpack how I’m feeling!! #BPDAwareness#FUBPD #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder #recovery

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