This one word leads to surprising clarity

Reverend Sue was unforgettable. She was an impeccably-dressed Baptist from Georgia with a no-nonsense attitude. She worked as a senior chaplain in a busy hospital, and was beloved by patients and staff.

I asked Reverend Sue about visiting patients. “It must be hard to get people to bare their souls to a stranger,” I said, “How do you manage to forge a connection with so many diverse people?”

“Well,” she began in her Southern drawl, “I ask them ‘How are you doing?’ and they respond with something polite. And so then I ask them ‘How are you really doing?'”

That one word “really” was the secret to helping patients to open up. And I submit to you that asking ourselves “really?” can open up our own doors to get clarity for our lives.

Listen to these questions:

What do I want from a relationship?

What is not working in my career?

What do I want? 

Now, listen to these questions :

What do I really want from a relationship?

What is really not working in my career?

What do I really want? What do I really, really, want? 

You see, I feel that we are so socially conditioned to be polite and acceptable that our first instinct is to censor ourselves. We want the sanitized answers that make us look good, even if they sell our souls short. Yet, adding the word “really” to our questions commands our attention and demands we speak our truths.

How are you doing? And how are you really doing? 



Photo by Alexandre Chambon