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self-disclosing more when responding to "how are you?"

2023-05-19

(my current cure for anxiety is this thermosento video, please treat yourself to it while you read.)

A friend told me recently that one thing they learn from me is to be more open about their feelings in response to questions like "how are you?" instead of just saying "i'm good". This makes me really happy—a big tenet of my personal philosophy is to be open and candid with others (when appropriate, of course). I've seen firsthand how an inability to be emotionally open can hurt people, and encourage people to be candid whenever possible.

I think of responses to "how are you?" as falling on a spectrum of personal disclosure. On the left end lies the customary "I'm good" or "doing well" that you use with strangers, service workers, and coworkers. On the other lies complete disclosure without restraint, something akin to trauma dumping. I think the ideally exchanges between close friends should fall somewhere around three-fourth's of the way to the right of the spectrum, where you can comfortably disclose all the pertinent details explaining how you feel while using your best judgment to know where to draw the line for your listener's sake. This is where the best friendships lie, the ones that manage to make you feel less lonely in an inherently lonesome existence.

Most friendships will start somewhere on the leftmost side of the spectrum. But as you start to get to know someone more, the responses will start to migrate right on the spectrum at a pace that feels comfortable and natural (hopefully). (I always push myself to give the most open, honest answer appropriate for the situation.) And when you reach that magic zone between two-thirds and three-fourths of the way to the right, try to stay there! That's where friendships and relationships flourish: in mutual, reciprocal self-disclosure. Do your best to keep yourselves from slipping back towards the left side of the spectrum. Relationships fizzle out when we stop speaking and listening openly. 💔

Of course, there's nothing wrong with just being plain good; some days give you nothing to complain about! On those days, share your joy with me—tell me why you're happy! I want to hear what's going on in your head of yours. And when you're not doing so well, you can confide in me too. I'm always touched when people trust me with their struggles, and I like to think most people feel similarly. I promise to do my best to help you carry your emotional baggage.

If you're one of the lucky people entrusted with someone else's vulnerabilities, listen to what they tell you, what they don't, and how they say it. People who are reluctant to open up often worry how their vulnerability might be perceived. Handle that trust carefully with both hands, and don't break it under any circumstances by being mean, callous, or indifferent.

This all feels kind of silly and obvious now that it's on paper, but since I've already written it I might as well share it I guess. I'd love to hear what you think, wherever you are.


thank you for reading; write to me at yourstiramisu 🐌 proton dot me

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