STUCK UNDER THE UMBRELLA? Why Asking “How Are You?” Is One Of The Worst Questions To Ask.

Article was written by Teresa Quinlan

Social conditioning has led us to an increase in the use of umbrella terms when it comes to our emotional expression. This can be seen most visibly when a seemingly harmless question is asked. One we receive multiple times a day.

“How are you?”


Not bad.



Or more recently, frequent use of the terms…




And most troublesome, feeling the latter and responding with the former…

“How are you?”

(internal voice screaming OVERWHEEEEELLLLLMED!!!)

“Fine. Thanks for asking.”


The emotional dissonance, of this last example, can be paralyzing and lead to even deeper levels of unwellness.

What is one to do? Use emotional intelligence skills from the ground up.


Using Emotional Self-Awareness

Recognize your emotions about the things that are going on in your life, independent of the overriding mood you are in. Step out from under the umbrella and get specific.

This is done by taking 1-2 pauses throughout the day to self-assess.

  • Notice when you use an umbrella emotion term (overwhelmed, stressed, anxious)
  • Ask yourself some objective based questions.What’s going on in my life? Make a list…What emotions am I experiencing for each of those things? Be as specific as you can. Use an emotions chart if you need help with the vocabulary.
  • Focus on the identified unpleasant/negative emotional experiences to take wise action; move toward resolution of the negativity.What is 1 wise action to take on this?What 1 thing can I do to move myself from negativity and back to wellness?What does this area of my life need for fulfillment?


Using Emotional Expression

Not everyone has earned the right to the entirety of your story. You get to choose who you share your life with.

When asked “How are you?” depressurize the need to respond in a socially acceptable framework and respond in a way that suits you best without putting you at a disadvantage to emotional dissonance (feeling one way on the inside and presenting an entirely different façade on the outside).

A simple strategy is to share how you are feeling about something specific.

“Hey Teresa! How are you?”

“Hey Ryan! I’m feeling jazzed up and excited for an upcoming workshop with a great client this week.”

“How are you?”

“Overall – doing well because family is together and everyone is healthy.”


Flexing your emotional intelligence is about PRACTICE. The more you practice, the greater your proficiency and skill level.

Enjoy the journey!

To find out more about contributor, Teresa Quinlan, click here.