For years I’ve found myself saying “okay” “I don’t know” and “I’m good” to every question about my life and emotional state. Recently I noticed a change in vocabulary, using synonym phrases like, “I’m fine” and “it was alright.” Not because things had positively progressed in my life, but because I picked up on a new way to conceal myself from the world. Occasionally I would add more feeling to my sentences to appear engaged over being rude.
“How is school” – It’s alright
“How are you feeling” – I’m okay
“What’s wrong?” – Nothing, why do you ask?
“How was your weekend? Did anything fun happen?” – It was alright, I hung out with friends.
At first, I hadn’t noticed the way I would respond to people. My friends, family, teachers had never said much about it.
Well, thinking back I guess my mother indicated her distaste with facial expressions and my grandmother whose a very blunt person might have actually commented. So— I must not have actually cared in those moments.
I discovered a lot of young adults’ first choice was to avoid the truth. If we are truly sad, we will hide it and if anyone dares to ask about it, we choose to lie, “it’s fine” when we really mean the opposite. Another big issue — it wasn’t only young adults, but the older generation as well.
These short, typical, and emotionally detached replies have become so common it is hard to break away from them.
For me, the problem is finding the right words and being able to air them out. Normally people ask me how I’m doing during times I feel moody.
Talking about my day and how I am feeling takes the air out of me. I feel like I am suffocating —swimming around in my head — drowning in the dark blue ocean— forgetting which way is up. Forgetting how to breathe.
The times I have been able to find the words and get them out, I had to force them (to no relief). Usually tears and a migraine come as a 2-1 deal.
I sometimes feel the way I respond now will have a major impact on my relationships with people in the future. I worry about my progression into adulthood and the lack of communication that will fail on my part.
Curious to hear the thoughts of Bonaventure students. I had conducted an interview around campus to ask them how they generally respond to questions and how they think it will impact their adulthood.
If a friend or family asked how was your day, how do you initially respond?
Katie McGovern, junior Education Studies and History major: I usually say “I’m ok” unless it’s a really good day.
Victoria Byrne, senior Accountant major: I would respond with how I was feeling and be honest, unless my day was so bad that if I answered honestly I would cry. I am generally very positive, so when I say that my day is going well I usually mean it.
Audrey Welcyng, freshman Finance major: I would say the truth (ie. “good or not so good”). Usually if I say I am good I don’t explain why I am good, but I would provide an explanation if I was “great, not so good, or bad.” I usually avoid the word “fine” because it typically indicates I am attempting to hide that I am really “not so good” which I wouldn’t do with close family and friends.
Okikiola Michael, senior Computer Science major: If my day was uneventful, I usually say it’s “alright.” If it were slow, I usually give a remark that suggests its state like “it’s going.” If it’s a good day then I say “I’m pretty good.”
Cecilia Byrne, freshmen Marketing major: If I’m doing well, I’ll tell them, but if I’m not doing great, I’ll usually just kind of avoid the question and then they have to drag it out of me. I really don’t like talking about my feelings lol.
Anthony Adams, senior Sports Journalism major: My initial reaction is to just say I’m good and push the question on to them.
Emily Tiedemann, senior Public Health major: Probably very short. Just like “good,” and then sometimes I have to remind myself “oh it was good, I did X,Y, and Z.”
Atkin Dwyer, sophomore Finance major: Probably just good, like how normally everyone responds, but then they’ll ask me to elaborate. I tell them about school, I tell them about sports. Just a pretty generic question-answer.
Hunter Payne, freshman Finance major: Really I’m kind of honest. If I am having a good day, I will say I am having a good day. If I am going through something, I will tell them I am going through something.
Matti Ferretti, sophomore Sports Studies major: I would say I am having a good day, a great time. I wouldn’t say to any of my friends or family I am having a bad day because if I think about that I feel it will be even worse.
If it was someone you’re unfamiliar with or professor, would you respond the same way?
Katie McGovern, junior Education Studies and History majors: It would probably be the same. I make everyone aware of my condition, but only give specifics to those that I care deeply about or those who care deeply about me. I don’t immediately start hashing on where my pain is and how bad it is.
Victoria Byrne, senior Accountant major: I would probably say that it has been going well and depending on how well I know them I might give a detail or something that happened.
Audrey Welcyng, freshman Finance major: I only say “good” or “alright.”
Okikiola Michael, senior Computer Science major: If it was someone I was unfamiliar with, I would give a shorter and quicker answer. For professors though, if we are in good relations, my answer is more thoughtful.
Cecilia Byrne, freshmen Marketing major: It would probably be pretty similar. I’ll tell them if I’m doing well, and if I’m not I would probably say something stupid like “these are trying times” and then change the topic.
Anthony Adams, senior Sports Journalism major: I would do the same.
Emily Tiedemann, senior Public Health: No, I would definitely be like “Oh! I’m good.” Even if I’m on the verge of tears.
Atkin Dwyer, sophomore Finance major: Probably not. I think unless they are a close friend of family I would say the majority of the time I’m not providing all the information according to how I am feeling or however things are going. It’s only for the majority of my family or close friends.
Hunter Payne, freshman Finance major: No. Only because I’m a pretty reserved person especially when it comes to what I got going on and my feelings in general. So if I don’t really know you then I am not going to go out of my way to explain how I’m feeling or anything like that.
Matti Ferretti, sophomore Sports Studies major: No, I would respond differently to a professor. I would talk more about my day with my family. I would tell them (family) what’s going on, what I’m facing, what challenges, what I’m doing well and asking questions too.
When did you notice the way you would communicate about your day or feelings to others?
Katie McGovern, junior Education Studies and History majors: I’ve started changing my ways of communication about 5 years ago. That’s when my dad passed and I found myself saying “I’m ok” rather than my usual “I’m good.” I try to be honest with people about my situation. It’s just hard some days. Sometimes I want to be strong and do things like I used to, but then I stand and my stomach is already pissed off. I also hate it when people pity me, but I also hate it when people don’t help when I’m really sick.
Victoria Byrne, senior Accountant major: I noticed probably about middle school. Coming home and my parents asking me about my day I would give them a long winded rundown of everything that happened. I’ve always been honest, I just don’t go into that much detail anymore.
Audrey Welcyng, freshman Finance major: I took notice multiple times throughout my late childhood and teenage years and still debate the fine tunings of socialization to the present date. I usually mentally question the intent behind the question to assess if it’s genuine or just a matter of speech. If I can tell the person really cares I might be honest, but oftentimes I prefer to keep my emotions private.
Okikiola Michael, senior Computer Science major: I don’t think I answer these questions honestly to everyone. Depending on the level of trust or my state of mind my answers are either meant to keep the interaction short or start a conversation. I was asked by a friend this year about how I answer these questions with different people. That’s when I noticed my responses varied.
Cecilia Byrne, freshmen Marketing major: I’m honest and open about pretty much everything usually, but when it comes to emotions I kinda just shut down.
Anthony Adams, senior Sports Journalism major: I mostly lie about how I feel to people because no one actually knows how to respond when you tell them you’re not ok.
Emily Tiedemann, senior Public Health major: I would kind of just find myself saying “I’m good” because if somebody asks how’s your day they’re not truly asking how’s your day. They’re just doing it to be polite. They want the answer that you’re good. If you say “Oh no, I’m not good” they’re gonna be like “Oh what?” Like that’s not the point of the question.
Atkin Dwyer, sophomore Finance major: When I’m communicating with someone how I’m responding to them, that’s when I’ll notice how I feel. Like during the day is when someone else asks me how I’m feeling. I don’t really acknowledge how I’m feeling throughout the day because I’m too focused on other things.
Hunter Payne, freshman Finance major: Probably when I was really young. Only because of the situation I grew up in, I didn’t really talk to a lot of kids, so I have always been reserved and not really talk to a whole lot of people.
Matti Ferretti, sophomore Sports Studies: I try not to hide my feelings, just try to do what I feel like doing.
When I ask “how was your weekend ?” How does that make you feel?
Katie McGovern, junior Education Studies and History majors: It makes me feel fine because it makes me think the other person truly cares about me.
Victoria Byrne, senior Accountant major: I feel good when you ask how my weekend went because it shows that you are interested in how my life is going. It is not your typical “how’s your day going” it seems like you actually want to know. I answer honestly to those.
Audrey Welcyng, freshman Finance major: I prefer that phrase to “how are you” or “how are you feeling.” It seems like a less intrusive way to see what is going on in someone’s life. So I would say it makes me feel like you care.
Okikiola Michael, senior Computer Science major: I don’t feel anything. I think it’s a conventional question that I ask other people too. So I don’t think anything of it.
Cecilia Byrne, freshmen Marketing major: It makes me feel nice, it feels like you’re taking an interest and then I get to talk.
Anthony Adams, senior Sports Journalism major: It makes me feel as though you care and maybe you are interested in doing something that weekend.
Emily Tiedemann, senior Public Health major: When somebody asks, I think I will explain what I did for my weekend. So I will say “Oh! It was really busy” or “it was good, I didn’t do much.” I feel like if someone were to ask “how’s your weekend” they truly want to know what you did.
Atkin Dwyer, sophomore Finance major: Fine. I think it’s similar to “how was your day.” I’d say that the majority of the weekends are similar, it’s kind of just like lacrosse and maybe hanging out with friends and then school again on Sundays.
Hunter Payne, freshman Finance major: Normally good because normally my weekends are pretty good.
Matti Ferretti, sophomore Sports Studies major: Good, I would just say what I did on the weekend differently. What did I do, if I tried new stuff, if I had fun, if I had to do something, if I had games. It depends on what kind of weekend I had.
If you were to ask me that same question and I responded by saying “it was okay” and ended it there. How would you feel?
Katie McGovern, junior Education Studies and History major: I would feel a slight bit of pity, but in theory that makes us sort of on the same page as we’re both “ok.” Not many people want to openly talk about struggles and I think we should be fine with that. But with that comes the meaning of the “ok” because it is looked down on in society.
Victoria Byrne, senior Accountant major: Responding with just “it was ok” sometimes makes me think there was more to the story, but it depends on your tone. If you seem upset I might ask a follow up question, but I don’t like to pry.
Audrey Welcyng, freshman Finance major: I would think something was bothering you and I’d feel bad that you didn’t feel comfortable enough to share.
Okikiola Michael, senior Computer Science major: Depending on who the person is, how they answered and if I’m interested then I either get concerned or take them at their word.
Cecilia Byrne, freshmen Marketing major: I would probably feel like it wasn’t actually ok and something happened.
Anthony Adams, senior Sports Journalism major: It would feel fake like if you were asking me just to say words.
Emily Tiedemann, senior Public Health major: I would ask you further about it because then it would either be you just don’t want to talk to me or you don’t want to talk about the situation or how your weekend was.
Atkin Dwyer, sophomore Finance major: Probably like I wanna hear more, like maybe some details because I feel like that’s not a good enough answer. I would like to get to know how you’re feeling, better. Hopefully.
Hunter Payne, freshman Finance major: That you’re telling me a half truth, you’re not really telling me what’s really going on.
Matti Ferretti, sophomore Sports Studies major: Bad, I would feel bad. Having fun on the weekend, having a good weekend is important for being more energetic during the week. By getting some rest and having some fun.
What do you think of your responses to “how’s your day going?” affects your relationship with people?
Katie McGovern, junior Education Studies and History major: I feel like it affects it greatly because my mood usually fluctuates with my condition. If I’m happy, it’s a good day, if I’m sad or upset, it’s probably a bad day. But people don’t understand that and it’s why I tend to keep private except for a close few who see a different side of me
Victoria Byrne, senior Accountant major: I think it has a positive impact because by being honest in my answers I am setting myself up to be able to open up to people when my day is going terribly.
Audrey Welcyng, freshman Finance major: I think my responses might delay relationship development with others and could give off the impression that I am not as friendly. That said I am generally a pretty private person, but I think I’ll take it into consideration in the future to be more open and then assess based on the person’s response to see if I feel like going more into depth.
Okikiola Michael, senior Computer Science major: I have no idea how it affects my relationships. My answers vary, but I don’t know what others think of my responses.
Cecilia Byrne, freshmen Marketing major: I think it’s pretty neutral, it just leads to us talking about our day. Usually, I feel like it doesn’t affect my relationships a whole lot unless we delve deeper, which doesn’t happen a whole lot.
Anthony Adams, senior Sports Journalism major: The more nonchalant you are in your response less the people care about your future responses.
Emily Tiedemann, senior Public Health major: I feel like it can either make the relation deeper with them or it could make it “Oh! Okay, we’re not on the deep level” we’re just “Oh! It was good” hi and bye type of deal.
Atkin Dwyer, sophomore Finance major: Hopefully to get to know the person better. Maybe create a connection through talking to them about their day. Kinda like a simple question, a conversation starter to hopefully develop a deeper relationship. Hopefully they learn something about me and I learn something about them through that response.
Hunter Payne, freshman Finance major: I think normally if someone asks me “how my day is going” they actually care and they want to go out of their way and see how I am doing. Normally I appreciate it.
Matti Ferretti, sophomore Sport Studies major: Maybe if you say your weekend is okay. If your day is not going well, if you keep being negative, maybe people will not be interested in you.
How do you think the way you respond will affect you in the future (in adulthood)?
Katie McGovern, juniorEducation Studies and History major: I suspect that people will ask more questions about my limitations, and as those limitations grow I will have to become more transparent with people.
Victoria Byrne, senior Accountant major: I think I will be positively affected because I answer people honestly. I think since I am comfortable sharing the good and the bad about my day that I will have stronger connections with people because I will be able to open up better.
Audrey Welcyng, freshman Finance major: I think it may impact the number of close relationships I form perhaps in a negative way. In other words, I’m likely to be a loner in the future.
Okikiola Michael, senior Computer Science major: It will affect how I judge whether to answer genuinely or coyly.
Cecilia Byrne, freshmen Marketing major: I think it will affect me fine. I’m usually pretty honest with people and I think they appreciate that.
Anthony Adams, senior Sports Journalism major: I personally think the older we get the less people actually care how we actually are, so I don’t think how I answer in the future will affect me very much.
Emily Tiedemann, senior Public Health major: I think it would encourage me to think about my answer like hearing other people’s answers. I think it would help me be more aware of how I answer and how I think the question is coming across is probably how the other person is trying to make the question come across.
Atkin Dwyer, sophomore Finance major: I think it would depend on the person. I feel if it’s a family member or a close co-worker I might elaborate, but I don’t know. I would say I’m pretty relaxed and nonchalant, so when I say “good” I’m good. The majority of the time I am honest, unless I am talking to someone I don’t know.
Hunter Payne, freshman Finance major: I don’t really know to be honest with you. Only because I feel like with social media people are becoming a lot more reserved and to themselves. They only talk to each other online, but in the same sense they’re maybe they will eventually get to a point where people are sick of doing that. So, I don’t really know. I don’t feel I am the best person to answer that question.
Matti Ferretti, sophomore Sport studies major: Probably by saying if you are having problems, like you’re having a bad day instead of saying you’re having a good day. You change everything. I would talk more to people I am familiar with.
For the most part, the interviewees were honest to those closest to them and tried to stay away from the “I’m fine” phrase. Having this interview helped bring further clarity to the meaning behind my own vague replies to family, friends, and others.
However, given that a lot of us still choose to hide in an unfashionable box, I feel it’s time to give ourselves a break from the short phrases and try to communicate a bit more in the interest of really wanting to build a relationship with someone. As Payne said, we don’t really know how the way we communicate now will affect us in the future. We can take a guess and make it worth noting to be more conscious of our replies. I am not saying let’s air out all our life stories and social security, but let’s give more details, a sentence or two.
When my boss asks how I am doing, I plan on letting them in a bit, “I am holding up, but with homework and the never ending thoughts about my future has been taking a toll on me.”