“How are you?”
“Fine thanks, you?”
It’s quite common that when we’re asked how we are, we respond with the answer we’ve been conditioned to give: Fine.
Sometimes, it’s true. Sometimes we are just fine, plodding along, nothing in particular on our minds.
But sometimes we’re not fine. Sometimes, we’re nowhere near fine. But do we change our response to the question? More often than not, we don’t.
So how can you tell if someone really is “fine”? Here are just a few things to look out for, that may suggest someone isn’t really feeling as okay as they say they are.
PLEASE NOTE: If someone reacts in one of the following ways, it does not necessarily mean they are definitely not okay. The behaviours are more likely to indicate this is an issue if it is out of character for that person/not how the person usually reacts/similar to how the person has behaved when not feeling great or struggling in the past. Use your own judgment when it comes to each person. These are just things to bear in mind.
- Eye contact
No/limited eye contact, eyes darting around the room, staring off into space.
- Defensive body language
Arms crossed, sitting hunched over, not turning to face you when you’re speaking.
- Facial expression doesn’t match the response
Unexpressive face, frowning, smiling but the smile doesn’t reach their eyes.
- Over-playing happiness
Speaking in a scripted manner, clearly pretending to be happier than they actually are.
- Non-verbal response
“Mhmm” or just nodding.
- Visibly emotional
Tears, watery eyes, shaking, breathing quickly, clenched fists, biting fingernails.
- “I’m fine, I’m just…”
Tired, busy, hungry, etc.
“I’m always fine!” or “You know I haven’t got time not to be fine!”
It may be that they don’t show any of these signs, but you just feel like something seems “off”. Especially if it’s a close friend or family member, you may just get that vibe. If in doubt, ask twice.
What sort of signs do you recognise in yourself when you’re not feeling particularly well? Do your support system know how to identify these signs? Let me know about your experiences in the comments.