"I'm good"

My robotic reply to “how are you?”


“Boy Scout Troop 454… how do you feel?!?”
“We feel good! Oh we feel so good! HUH!”

This back-in-the-day Boy Scout chant was an electric reply to “how are you?” A fresh take on a common question. Closing the response with an emphasis on the “HUH!” (paired with a fist pump) left no doubt that I meant what I said - I was feeling gooood. Also, I often surprised myself when I replied with this level of enthusiasm. Somehow, this chant would lead me to discover a previously-unearthed energy reserve.

“How are you?” is so instrumental to our social interactions that it's often a member of the handful of phrases that we’re initially taught when learning a foreign language (the other usual suspects being "my name is…” and “where’s the bathroom?”).

Said genuinely, it’s an act of kindness - reaching out to express curiosity in another's well-being. However, it’s become so routine that it’s lost what it means. We say the words without actually intending the question.

Need proof? The next time someone asks, “how are you?” reply with something beyond the standard, “I’m good.” Then, watch their reaction.

One of my mentors since high school, Patrick, used to reply, “borderline amazing” whenever he was asked. “Almost amazing, but not quite there yet!” It always gave me a nice chuckle.

We can use this exchange as an opportunity to break the spell for each other. To sprinkle some variety on top of the monotony. To open the door for connection, even if we're only offering the slightest crack.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been challenging myself to reply with something other than “I’m good” to this question of “how are you?”

I’m here to report that I’ve failed miserably at staying consistent, which shows how automatic this reply has become for me. However, in the moments that I’ve remembered to change it up, the results were utterly delightful.

“How are you?”
“Feeling pretty grateful today.”
“Grateful? Why? What’s going on?”
“Just happy to be alive, ya know? Grateful for another day!”
“Wow! I love that energy.”

“How are you?”
“Filled with joy. Loving life. How are you?”
“That’s awesome. Well... I’m doing better now.”

“How are you?”
“Borderline amazing.”
“Borderline. Why borderline?”
“Because I’m uncaffeinated right now but this coffee is about to send me right over the edge.”

What I fail to capture in these text-based recounts are the smiles and the second looks. I’m greeted by a half-hidden grin from the barista peering over the register as this interaction is likely her first departure from an endless stream of routine.

To be clear, excess positivity is not a requirement. Sometimes, being honest about how we’re actually doing can give us the connection that we so crave.

“How are you?”
“Feeling a bit exhausted but we’re chugging along.”
“I hear you. I’m in the same boat but we’ll get through it. Almost Friday, right?”
“You bet. We’ve got this.”

Now, imagine this same conversation with the standard-issue question & answer:
“How are you?”
“I’m good.”

No connection. Closed off. Carry on.

Depression is the reward we get for being ‘good.’

Marshall Rosenberg in Nonviolent Communication

We don’t have to feel so distant from each other. We’re all humans. We’re in this together.

Yes, we all have places to go. And yes, we’re often in a rush to get there. But presumably we’re going to reply to this question anyway. So, why not spark some joy in another's day? And who knows… we might just stumble into some connection along the way.

If you’re at a loss for what to say, “grateful” is one of my go-to’s.

If that feels too obnoxious, then please feel free to borrow the chant from Boy Scout Troop 454:
“I feel good! Oh I feel so good! HUH!”

Just don’t forget the fist pump.

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