You can't detach from stress if you don't know you're stressed. And I suspect that if we continue to tell people we're "fine" when we're not, stress will become the new norm.
A good friend shared the story below, which provides some insight into authentic communication and cultural differences...
"I was dating a woman from Denmark about 20 years ago. The cultural differences I experienced during our romance were eye-opening.
For example, there were differences in how we approached the basic American small talk.
One classic example is found in the question you and I ask all the time here in the U.S. with our family, friends, coworkers, or even complete strangers – 'How are you?'
As is our custom, the question is generally answered quickly and politely with – 'Fine.'
I clearly remember asking her – 'How are you?' – when we first met at a party, and she gave me a comprehensive answer of how she was, her health, her work, and her family. It was quite a narrative. She later explained that in her native Denmark, asking someone how they are was a personal question that is not asked lightly.
I responded by explaining that here in the U.S., we may not be interested in how you are, but rather it is a term of phrase, like 'bless you' after a sneeze. We use small talk as a social lubrication for opening a conversation.
She was in disbelief and I had a hard time convincing her that this is a generally acceptable response in polite, light conversation.
Months later, we found ourselves driving together and approaching the toll plaza at the San Francisco Bay Bridge. I thought that this was a perfect time to demonstrate this particular issue with a complete stranger.
I rolled down the window, and as I gave my $1 to the toll taker, over the din of traffic, I loudly but politely asked, 'How are you?'
Without blinking an eye, the toll taker quickly replied, 'Fine.' That was it. We were on our way.
That brief verbal transaction was important to me. I think that was an inflection point of my listening skills.
I learned to ask this and other questions genuinely and with interest to elicit a response that was authentic, and I was eager to listen to what the person was willing to share."
Thanks to my friend for sharing this story! And for always really and truly wanting to know how I am.
© 2015 Dr. Kristin Rose