Don’t Say “How Are You” and Not Wait for the Answer

It is of course commonplace to say “How are you?” when we run into an acquaintance on the street or as we begin a telephone call. However, sometimes we don’t even wait for a response. “How are you?” has taken the place of “Hi.” It may be a good idea to break this little habit because some people may infer that you don’t care about them if you don’t even wait for a response to your inquiry. We make a big deal about this in therapy and for good cause. How one is doing is very important to one’s sobriety. Recovering alcoholics need each other to stay sober, and waiting for a response to the “How are you?” inquiry is critical. Similarly, recovering people should not respond to a “How are you?” question with the word “Fine.” “Fine” is too often merely a cover up for fear of expressing what is commonly deemed socially unacceptable feelings. The acronym given to FINE is F--ked up, Insane, Neurotic and Excited. In her classic book, “Peoplemaking,” Virginia Satir says: If a person feels bad and he’s asked how he feels, he will answer, “Fine,” because...he probably concludes, no one is really interested anyway, so why not pick the expected answer?” P.51. Now I am not arguing that we need to make too big a deal of a simple “How are ya’” in our everyday affairs. However, at least wait a second for a response to your “How are ya’?” At least say it and try to care. This may make a positive difference in how it affects the other person. Asking "how are you doing" (and meaning it) can be applied to anyone with whom you want to improve a relationship. If you find you are constantly telling your son to hang up his clothes, take out the trash, clean the tables, etc. you will be amazed how your teenager will respond when you just ask him “How Ya Doin’?” The same is true for your wife of twenty years. Spouses seem to spend so much of their daily conversations solving problems. Perhaps just asking your spouse “How ya Doin?” without expecting any specific response will show your love. This is a great way to make a "living amends."


People who are self conscious tend to fear connecting emotionally with other people. Sharing feelings honestly is critical to sobriety. Waiting for a response to the “How are you?” inquiry is critical. Also, when asked how you are doing, don't answer "fine." Try to use a feeling response like "angry, happy, confused, overwhelmed, etc." You will quickly learn who are people who will listen to you if you give a "feeling" response. The people who care are usually winners in the program. This is also a good test if you are interested in picking a Sponsor.