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"How Are You?" Make It More Than Just A Greeting

"How Are You?" Make It More Than Just A Greeting

"How are you?" The first words off nearly all of our lips as we meet a colleague round the water cooler, in the lift or as we wait for stragglers to arrive and the meeting to start.

It is indeed a friendly, polite and courteous greeting and a very good way to say hello. But how often do we expect or indeed give any other answer than “Fine Thanks” or these days “Good Thanks”.
We all know that in reality there are times in any one week, month or year when we feel more mentally fit, enthusiastic and up for life than others. We also know from the statistics produced by Mind that one in four of us will at some point in our careers suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition. The biggest element of which in the work environment and particularly the legal and professional services environment, is stress-related heightened anxiety and/or depression. 
So the almost universal answer of “I am good thanks” simply cannot always be true. 
The reason why being a little more open about how we are feeling is important is that all the evidence shows that getting a little help and making a few changes in the home or working environment can make very big differences to how we feel and consequently our performance at work. But so often we prefer to hide behind the mask and as a result just soldier on hoping things will improve through the application of more “endurance”.
So, what can we do to change this?
1) Recognising that whether as a leader of teams or a colleague within one it is absolutely appropriate to be asking how people are feeling as an everyday part of work activity. Equally as important as the project risks, the sales pipeline etc. How a person is feeling will in any event affect all those other metrics for better or worse!
2) Understanding that being disturbed on occasions by stress is not a sign of weakness and in fact is often associated with the brightest and the best in an organisation. Getting the very good traits that define a high performer e.g. ambition, caring about the outcome of things, taking responsibility, volunteering for work, being sensitive to what others think, out of proportion. 
3) Asking the question in a more thoughtful way with some context and making time for the answers e.g. How are things at home? Are you still going the theatre? Any holidays planned? Still getting out on your bike? 
4) Having a better understanding of some of the standard early symptoms of becoming disturbed by stress and having some basic knowledge of where to signpost people for further help inside the organisation.
I know from my work with Burness Paull over the last few years that the firm is making real progress in normalising discussions about mental health and how important it is for all of us and for the success of a business. 
I have been particularly impressed that, partly as a result of the mental health and  resilience sessions I have run for the partner groups across the practice, there has been a real willingness from  partners to reach out to me on a one-to-one basis for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) coaching  support to help overcome a difficult period. 
Top Tip for Mental Health Awareness Week
Keeping our mood high, engaged and enthusiastic is good for our mental health and good for the business. Remember the psychologically proven fact that Behaviour Changes Mood. What we do affects how we feel.  So, don’t wait until you are ‘in the mood’ to do things aimed at giving you pleasure. Whether it’s theatre, going to the gym, cycling, music or whatever lights your candle, book it into your diary in advance. 
Then even if half an hour before the event you don’t feel ‘in the mood’ GO ANYWAY, knowing that the minute you engage with the activity you will feel an immediate lift.
Don’t with until you are in the mood. It might never happen!
John Binns MBE
Vice Chair of Mind, Founder member of the City Mental Health Alliance and qualified CBT Coach.

It is indeed a friendly, polite and courteous greeting and a very good way to say hello. But how often do we expect or indeed give any other answer than “Fine Thanks” or these days “Good Thanks”.

We all know that in reality there are times in any one week, month or year when we feel more mentally fit, enthusiastic and up for life than others. We also know from the statistics produced by Mind that one in four of us will at some point in our careers suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition. The biggest element of which in the work environment and particularly the legal and professional services environment, is stress-related heightened anxiety and/or depression. 

So the almost universal answer of “I am good thanks” simply cannot always be true. 

The reason why being a little more open about how we are feeling is important is that all the evidence shows that getting a little help and making a few changes in the home or working environment can make very big differences to how we feel and consequently our performance at work. But so often we prefer to hide behind the mask and as a result just soldier on hoping things will improve through the application of more “endurance”.

So, what can we do to change this?

  1. Recognising that whether as a leader of teams or a colleague within one, it is absolutely appropriate to be asking how people are feeling as an everyday part of work activity. Equally as important as the project risks, the sales pipeline etc. How a person is feeling will in any event affect all those other metrics for better or worse!
  2. Understanding that being affected, on occasions, by stress is not a sign of weakness and in fact is often associated with the brightest and the best in an organisation. Recognising that the excellent traits that define a high performer e.g. ambition, caring about the outcome of things, taking responsibility, volunteering for work, being sensitive to what others think, can sometimes get out of proportion.
  3. Asking the question in a more thoughtful way with some context and making time for the answers e.g. How are things at home? Are you still going to the theatre? Do you have any holidays planned? Are you still getting out on your bike?
  4. Having a better understanding of some of the common early symptoms of becoming affected by stress and having some basic knowledge of where to signpost people for further help inside the organisation.

I know from my work with Burness Paull over the last few years that the firm is making real progress in normalising discussions about mental health and how important it is for all of us and for the success of a business. 

I have been particularly impressed that, partly as a result of the mental health and  resilience sessions I have run for the partner groups across the practice, there has been a real willingness from  partners to reach out to me on a one-to-one basis for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) coaching  support to help overcome a difficult period. 

Top Tip for Mental Health Awareness Week

Keeping our mood high, engaged and enthusiastic is good for our mental health and good for the business. Remember the psychologically proven fact that Behaviour Changes Mood. What we do affects how we feel.  So, don’t wait until you are ‘in the mood’ to do things aimed at giving you pleasure. Whether it’s theatre, going to the gym, cycling, music or whatever lights your candle, book it into your diary in advance. 

Then even if half an hour before the event you don’t feel ‘in the mood’ GO ANYWAY, knowing that the minute you engage with the activity you will feel an immediate lift.

Don’t wait until you are in the mood. It might never happen!

John Binns MBE
Vice Chair of Mind, Founder member of the City Mental Health Alliance and qualified CBT Coach

LChalmers