When ‘How are You Doing?’ becomes a Loaded Question

Patient & Caregiver Resources Stroke

How are you doing? It is a common question, and often actually used as a greeting. How often do you see a friend or family member and ask, “How are you doing?” I suspect you never think twice about what you are asking.

There are many variations of this common greeting:

  • How are things?
  • How’s everything?
  • What’s new?
  • What’s going on?

But, if you have had a stroke or serious illness, it has special meaning. In fact, “How ARE you doing?”

How Are You Doing?

I am convinced that people do not expect a specific response when they ask this question, and we frequently simply respond, “fine.” I am always tempted to respond, “Do you mean physically, emotionally or both?” Does the person truly want to know how you are managing after your stroke or with your serious illness? In fairness, they may be caught off guard, as most people have never given this a thought. But you have the opportunity to start an important and meaningful conversation.

It’s time to truly tell me how you are doing. Tell me about your therapy, your emotions, your family or your frustrations.

It’s ‘OK’ to Tell the Truth

It can be both therapeutic and liberating to let someone know how you really feel. Here are some of my suggestions for how to respond if you are the person with the illness or their family member and suggestions to think about if you are the person asking the question.

If You Are the Patient

  • Thank you for asking. I…
  • Right now, it is difficult.
  • I have good days and tough days. Today is a….
  • Most of the time I’m getting better, but….
  • Physically I am getting better, but emotionally I am having a challenging time.

If You Are the Family

  • Thank you for asking about Dad.
  • You should give Dad a call some time as he would love to hear from you.
  • He may not admit it, but the whole experience has been difficult for him.
  • We are so pleased with his progress. You should stop by and see him.
  • It has been hard on the whole family, but …

If You Are a Friend or Clinician Asking About a Stroke Patient

  • How is your recovery going?
  • There must be times when this is difficult.
  • Do you want to set up a time to visit and talk?
  • How are you doing emotionally?
  • I am sure everyone tells you that you’re doing “great,” but how do you think you are doing?

I could go on and on. These are just a few examples, but I think you get the gist of where I am headed.

How are you doing, I imagine that this “IS” difficult.