Are You OK?

Are You OK?

This sounds very caring and concerned, doesn’t it? I bet when you read it, you got a warm feeling. This is what people ask when they notice that someone is not looking good, or has just suffered a loss or illness, or they just have a feeling that something is off.

If you have read any of my articles, however, you know I’m going to turn this around lol!

I propose that this is a terrible question to ask. Let’s use “Alice” and “Debbie” as examples. Debbie asks Alice “Are you OK?” with the intention of showing concern and letting Alice know she cares, but it leaves Alice in an uncomfortable quandary. How does she respond?

Alice may be just fine, in which case she is now wondering, “Do I look like something is wrong?” “Do I look tired or sick?”

Alice may actually be feeling poorly or unwell, but doesn’t want to share that with Debbie. So how does she respond?

Alice may be feeling awful, looks awful, and gets angry, yelling, “Of course I’m not ok!” or is too ill to respond and gets even more pissed off but can’t express it.

Alice may have a whole litany of problems that she would love to share, but doesn’t know if Debbie is really interested, or how much she wants to hear.

Alice may take a leap of faith and share something devastating with Debbie, who now has to figure out how to respond and may be overwhelmed, or was never that interested to begin with but is now stuck.

“Are you OK?” is a “yes or no” question, which is the worst when it comes to getting information. Social convention suggests that when Debbie notices something amiss with Alice, she can ask, “Are you OK?” to fulfill her social obligation. Alice will then respond, “Yes, I’m fine” and the social niceties are completed.

The real question is, how much do you want to Connect? This social convention leaves the parties in a state of disconnection. If Connection is the intention, then dispense with “Are you OK?” and instead, say, “I notice you are looking sad. Tell me what’s happening.” You could also say, “I’m concerned because I know you recently lost your dog and that can be really traumatic.” You might say, “I see you’re not well, what do you need?
Any of these statements demonstrate caring and compassion and also open up space for sharing while also providing the opportunity for a response such as, “I’m too tired to talk right now,” or “I’m not ready to talk yet but I’d like a hug,” or “Please make me some soup.”

Finally, it’s extremely important to not invalidate or minimize a child’s intuition when they ask this question. When a child asks, “Mommy, are you ok?” when they are observing Mommy being sad, angry, sick, or crying, the worst thing Mommy can reply is, “I’m ok.” Mommy is clearly NOT OK, but telling the child she is fine will lead to the child subverting their intuition and doubting themselves when an authority figure denies their reality. This can lead to that child becoming an adult who can easily be manipulated, exploited, and victimized.

So, are you OK? Don’t answer that. How about telling me how you’re feeling and what you need?

Be In Light