We have all said it– variations of “fine.” Common usages:
A fine mask. And normally, a bald-faced lie. Is it ruining relationships with family? Yes. Friends? Yes. Romantic Relationships? No. Oh wait– YES. Our “fine” mask separates us from the truth of how we actually feel. By saying “fine” or “good” (when we don’t feel that way), we lie to our loved ones and ourselves. And eventually, we can turn a sincere relationship into an insincere one.
Why do I have the “fine” habit? I didn’t even realize it!
We’ve lived with examples of “fine” for a majority of our lives, and have most likely picked up the bad habit from our parents.
“But he should know. . . [how I feel/why I’m feeling that way/what I’m actually thinking.] Well, he doesn’t. And your frustration and his frustration will grow at the lack of open communication. Spell thing out (in kindness)– it is more productive than dancing around an issue or avoiding it all together. Sometimes, it’s painful to express our feelings, but it’s worth the risk.
“But I don’t want to [hurt her/offend her/make her not like me].” I totally get it. But everyone should learn healthy confrontation in a communicative relationship at some point. Now is a good time to start, before those wrinkles of bitterness set in. Even in writing this, part of me wants to say “it’s okay, we’ve all been there.” At the same time, it’s not okay. So while we all have been there, I would be lying if I said “it’s okay,” when it’s not. It’s especially disconcerting when I want us to have a healthy relationship. I
want us to trust each other. Me, the writer. You, the reader. So it’s not okay– but it will get better! We can break this bad habit together if we try. Isn’t honesty grand?
How do I break the “fine” habit?
We want people to like us, think everything in our world is peachy and keep the peace. But what if. . .instead of caring about how other people perceive our masked realities, we take off our masks and tell me people who we truly feel? Sure, your surface-driven friends will fade away if you’re struggling with a rough day. But those who care about you will want to hear about it, help you, and love you in the best way they can. So the ambition for breaking the “fine” habit should be truthfulness and longing for deeper relationships.
I’ve been on the other end of “I’m fine.” What do I do?
Gently confront the true emotions of the person who “feels fine,” but is expressing something besides “fine.” The key is. . . gently. If someone uses “I’m fine,” they are most likely hiding themselves in a shell of defensive communication. So if we attack them aggressively with “WHY DON’T YOU EVER TELL ME THE TRUTH?!,” they will either back away from the relationship and continue in a shell of solitude and isolation, or, lash out in anger like a cornered animal.
By being gentle, we can all say to our loved ones “I know you are saying you’re fine, but I’m getting the feeling like you’re [upset/angry/disappointed] and I’d love to talk it out in case I’ve [hurt/offended/haven’t listened] to you.” Then, truly listen. Maybe it was something you did (that you didn’t mean) or maybe it was outside of the circumstance of your relationship and you can just be a listening ear. If you have done something wrong, apologize. Humility is a powerful key player in having healthy communication.
But Amanda, I actually feel fine. Is this bad?
By no means! We all have days we just float along. Unfortunately, “fine” doesn’t have the best connotations in our sociable culture and your friends might become concerned.
“How are you?”
“No seriously, I’m fine.”
If you are going to use that particular word to describe your emotional state, it’s often helpful to immediately add an explanation.
“How are you?”
“Fine. Had a normal day, no ups or downs. Pretty chill.”
“Cool. Me too.”
Normal days can be great! Avoiding dramatic situations can bring us peace!
We can all break the “fine” habit. Be vulnerable, be humble, be truthful.