Ah yes, that lovely, very Irish expression. Taken to mean ‘I’m good’. You wouldn’t worry about someone who said they weren’t too bad would you?
This can be a reflex answer. Something you are used to saying so it just pops out. It can have no deeper meaning other than a courtesy. In Ireland, when we ask ‘How are you’, we don’t really expect a real answer anyway.
How do you respond when someone says ‘Not too bad thanks’? How about any one of the below:
Still here sure
Ah, sure you know yourself
I’ve been worse
The conversation can easily move on to the weather now, or holidays (maybe not so much now!), or the next or most recent Easter, Christmas, Paddy’s Day, Bank Holiday weekend….. perfectly inoffensive and transitionary. Nobody leaves a conversation like that really knowing what is going on for the other person, nobody has been offended in any way, neither side has the potential to walk away feeling like the other is getting notions.
Words are important though. Tone is important. Intention is important. Particularly in coaching.
It is seldom, in coaching, that I ask someone how they are and get a transactional answer. If I have done my job correctly, a coaching conversation is held in a bubble of safety and security where there is zero judgement. It is somewhere where you can be completely yourself. Open, honest, real.
The power of a real conversation can be immense. Allowing you to get in touch with deep parts of yourself. Giving you the time, space and support to really deal with what is going on. It offers a balance of support AND challenge creating forward movement and facilitating change.
A coach has many ‘tools’. I believe one of the best ‘tools’ is a coach’s power to offer what they notice in all forms, but language is a key component of this. What are sometimes seemingly throw away remarks potentially have a deeper meaning in a coaching conversation. Enquiring around words and their meaning can support someone to see something that was previously hidden behind words.
I have had plenty of client who have been shocked they have said something when it has been reflected back. Indeed, I have been shocked I have said things when it has been reflected back to me. It stops you in your tracks. It forces you to think about what you have said and possibly even asks you what you feel about what you said – accessing the further knowledge we all have that resides outside of the head.
This seemingly simple process of reflection can give so much more information than possible without it. It can help make decisions, commit to decisive action, embed real change.
All of this can happen in the right circumstances – a safe and supportive environment with no judgement.
The next time you are asked how you are, why not try answering in a real way. Trust that the person asking really wants to know. Maybe be prepared to be a little vulnerable – it may invite the other person to do the same and a real conversation, beyond the weather, may just happen.