‘Tis The Season To Listen When Folks Say “Soon” and “I’m Fine”

I have recently been paying close attention to how folks are doing at this point in a frightening and troubled year of many unknowns. So many were looking forward to “after the election.” Now most of those same people are saying “after the first of the year.” The positive side of this attitude is that there is hope that things will get better. The negative side to this, in my opinion, is the willingness to wait. I do not wait well.

“Soon” And “I’m Fine” Should Be Red Flags

Business will turn around soon. The virus will be contained soon. “Soon” is one of those vague words that implies “in the near future,” but, by definition, cannot be specific. When I talk to other business owners about where they are in their enterprise, I am always concerned when I hear “soon” more than once. It makes me wonder if there is some paralysis or some hesitation to get on with things. I would rather hear something like “in two weeks, we will be back at X capacity.” And I always feel a bit uneasy when I ask how someone is doing and the answer is “I’m fine.” It is another vague statement that implies something positive but raises questions.

It Turns Out “I’m Fine” As A Response Has Been Studied A Lot

I was astonished when I went to research the phrase, “I’m fine.” There has been a great deal written about these two words. Mental health experts will caution that this response can often mean the opposite—that the speaker is not fine at all. There is even a documented difference between a response of being fine and being good. “I’m good” is perceived as a positive state without question. It is odd that some two-word responses can be so full of possible understandings. I also read that the most common lie in the English language is “I’m fine,” next to “I have read and agreed to the Terms and Conditions.”

“Tis The Season To Hear What Our Friends And Colleagues Are Saying

We are all anxious for these dark times to pass. Maybe we can help expedite that if we make it our holiday mission to really hear what our friends and colleagues are saying as they reply to the usual greetings. Maybe this exercise can give us some insight into how we are doing ourselves? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I am going to give it a try. Collect some anecdotal evidence about the power of caring and reaching out. Whether it is business, kids, local events—I would like to know how people are feeling right now. Smiles and kind words can bring a warmth that will last for hours.

Jason Newburg, 260.243.5100, ext 2101, is the founder and owner of Aptica LLC. This IT management and support company has been serving small to medium-sized businesses for 19 years in the region that includes Angola, South Bend, and Fort Wayne, IN, Battle Creek, MI, and Toledo OH.

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