Recently, I had a fantastic conversation with one of my clients about how to respond to the question "How are you?" without either saying "Fine, thanks." or launching into a soul to soul with someone you don't have an intimate connection with.
Generally speaking, our conversation was surrounding honesty and boundaries and how to genuinely respond to this social nicety when quite frankly you feel like sh*t.
The problem with saying "Fine, thanks." if it's not genuine is that it does not provide an accurate emotional backdrop, which is important if you are going to be working alongside this person for more than a few minutes, and you both have the right to start from a place of integrity.
The problem with disclosing too much is that it may not be appropriate based on the context of the relationship and it robs focus from whatever the intended conversation is about.
To clarify, I'm not talking about a heartfelt conversation with someone you want to share meaningful and honest feelings with, but rather a co-worker, client, acquaintance, family member, or any other well-meaning but less than intimate connection.
The conclusion we came to includes a three-part response that acknowledges they asked, clues them into your emotional state, and then redirects the conversation. An example may sound like this...
"Thank you for asking.
I have had a challenging year.
I am grateful to be focusing on ... with you."
Give it a try the next time you have a chance and see if it sets a more genuine tone for the interaction, neither leaving you feeling like a liar or emotionally exposed.