This is SO true, in the UK we’re really bad for asking ‘how are you?’ or ‘you alright?’ and nine times out of 10 we say ‘fine’ or ‘good, you?’. It doesn’t invite more conversation even though it’s open ended because we’re so used to shutting it down; half the time i do it i’m calling it back behind me to my colleague as i head off in the other direction for coffee in the morning. I try whenever possible to ask what someones been up to or ask a direct question about something in their life ‘did you finish watching x factor yet!?’ so that we shut down the auto pilot response of ‘fine’. Realistically just as ‘fine’ is auto pilot for us all so is ‘how are you?’ but if you can make the effort with someone who’s having a hard time it can open up a whole other line of conversation.
It’s also great for changing it up and just having a regular conversation, sometimes when i’m ill i’m like ‘geeze get lost i’m done repeating that i feel like poop to every other fricken person’, particularly if i’m seeing a lot of mental health professionals at the time. The Crisis Team for example can never guarantee you’ll see the same person so see them once a day for a week and you’ve retold exactly how bad you’re feeling seven times which i figure just can’t be good for attempting to feel upbeat. I remember one Nurse coming into my flat and going ‘cool i like your art! do you sell it, you should totally sell it!’ it it kind of annoyed me that she was being flippant (which she wasn’t really) but then i realised i’d been talking about something other than wanting to kill myself (not ideal) for twenty minutes and that was kind of nice.
It’s a hard balance between showing you care and genuinely want to hear about how they’re doing and giving them an opportunity to talk about something every day but if you start from a point of actually being interested and being ready to continue that conversation you’ve made a good start