top of page

Human Performance Blog


Everyone is feeling various intensities and adaptations of sad, tired, angry, lost and anxious. Essentially, all the 'feelz' are happening all at once, and all the time and it may not be OK.

Yet we don't admit it.

When asked, 'How are you'? The common response is 'Im Ok'.

'Ok' can be quite subjective, meaning something different to any number of people, so lets consider some options.

One of the main reasons why a request of 'How are you?' is not answered sincerely is Self Preservation. This is the innate instinct to protect yourself used in the primitive times to ensure survival against a threat.

Why would being asked 'How are you?', be perceived as a threat?

First Alert - Distrust (Im ok - I don't think you really want to know/care)

'How are you?' is a very powerful question, however it has been misused and overused so much that it begins to feel superficial. The question has devolved into a courtesy question, where oftentimes the response is not even waited on or listened to. As result, regardless of what is actually going on, the question is brushed off or not taken seriously.

Second Alert - Help Seeking Behavior (Im ok - I don't/can't need help)

Asking for help can be seen as a weakness, especially in cultures and demographics that still hold on to the stereotype that vulnerability is a weakness, that mental health/wellness is not real or ones where mental illness is vilified. This alert calls into question how likely a person is to seek help when faced with issues or challenges.

Third Alert - Guilt (Im ok - I don't want to complain, or be a pain)

Guilt can come in two forms related to a fear of being judged.

First, if things aren't ok, feeling guilty or insensitive for complaining about a personal struggle that pales in comparison to what is happening to others.

Second, if things are ok, feeling guilty or selfish to share a happy event in your life that may make others feel worse about their situation. Sharing good news in a difficult time can feel strange and difficult.

The challenge with succumbing to the 'I'm OK' self preservation tactic is that it can create a related psychological threat called Dissonance. This threat occurs when your mind is at war with itself, when actions don't match thoughts, or what you say don't match what you do or mean.

Despite the common avoidance of answering the question 'How are you?', asking it isn't the wrong thing to do. When asking 'How are you?', be sure to be sincere, open-minded and non-judgmental to avoid falling victim to the alerts. If unsure, ask it again...How are you, really?!

If you are asked 'How are you?', and quickly whip out the 'I'm ok' response, consider if you are really ok, or are you employing a self-preservation tactic. Be Honest.

Want to learn more about how to avoid Self-Preservation Tactics or how to resolve Dissonance? Check in with Dr.V

Interested in joining the FREE

Coping Post Quarantine Webinar? Request to Join Here


bottom of page