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How to know when "I'm fine" isn't actually fine

A common response to "How are you?" is "I'm fine." While we’ve all used this response at some point in our lives, it’s important to be aware of verbal and non-verbal clues that those two words aren’t holding their meaning. Family therapist, Joe Rich, shared signs to watch out for that might indicate when "I'm fine" isn't actually fine. 

VERBAL CLUES THAT SOMEONE MIGHT BE STRUGGLING

Context can sometimes be a good indicator that will help you watch out for any verbal clues. For example, if you know an individual is at a specific spot if their lives, you might be able to pay closer attention to their responses. The tone of the person's response can often give you a verbal clue about how they're really feeling. Although “fine” might not always be a lie, having a meaningful discussion can give you a better idea of whether or not the person needs some support. If you’re hearing verbal clues, it can be helpful to respond with, “Tell me more, maybe I can help.”

NON-VERBAL CLUES THAT SOMEONE MIGHT BE STRUGGLING

Being observant is extremely important when looking out for someone you care about. You can see non-verbal clues almost everywhere. If the individual tears up or continuously stem away from a group to be on their own, it might be time to have a conversation. Most non-verbal clues are behavioural and things you can observe in social situations. If something you see creates concern even after hearing “I’m fine,” take that as a non-verbal clue.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE CONCERNED ABOUT SOMEONE

If you’re concerned about someone and have noticed either verbal or non-verbal clues, be accepting and non-judgmental. Respecting the individual’s boundaries is essential. Not everyone will be open to sharing details about their life right off the bat. At the same time, you can still offer help and guidance without pressuring them to tell you everything. Think about practical ways you can be there for the person and break their isolation. Follow up after your initial conversation is a great way to show that you’re still thinking about them and that you care.