Today is National ‘RUOK?’ Day.  The 15th of September 2011, Asking people if they’re ok?  It’s a national day of action which aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones. A problem shared is a problem halved right?

Staying connected with others is so important to our general well being. Feelings of  isolation or hopelessness definitely  can lead to depression and other mental illnesses, which could result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and care about. But how often are our chats meaningful?

To be honest, I don’t think I’m often asked, “Are you ok?” I guess I rarely ask that question either. More often, I’m asked, “How are you?”– A question that is probably less probing and prompts a shorter response. So, I counted how many times I was asked how I was over the course of the day. In 44 forms of communication, I was asked ‘How are you?” Yep, in 15 emails, 3 Facebook messages, 8 phone conversations, 19 face- to -face conversations and in one piece of mail, I was asked how I was. I even got a bill, and in the ‘generic’ script it asked me, ‘How are you?”

However, I think 95% of these queries, were merely rhetorical or quickly followed by another question or comment leaving me no time to answer. Often too, people seemed to answer their own question, assuming that all was dandy. For example, “How are you?” and then, ”Good right”.

So I wonder – why do we ask if we don’t wait and listen to the answer? And what if someone says, “Not good” or “I’m not ok?” What do you say then ? Is that why we don’t ask or don’t wait for a response?

How often do you automatically reply “good” when someone asks you how you are? I confess to often saying that short statement , as I don’t want to burden the person asking with my problems. The person asking often asks when so short for time too, so it’s unlikely there’s time to tell them how you’re really doing. Frequently many avoid eye contact too or their body language’s cold (standing far away, crossing their arms or not sitting down with you), conveying that they don’t want to ‘see’ that things aren’t great.

It’s scary to think that we often don’t regularly ask “Are you ok?” because ultimately we don’t want to feel responsible for something that we don’t know how to fix. However, to be asked, noticed and listened too is often all the recipient wants. You’re not expected to know all the answers but in asking we can link them in with someone who might know more.

So next time you ask another, “RUOK?” give them time to reply, don’t ask them out of habit or obligation. It’s when people ask me “how are you?” and seem to really care, I know I feel heard, seen and valued.

Listen to this 01 Ruok Track & Share it with your friends:)