I think of this simple question from Bob to Bill as a knock on the door of the Bill’s inner life. The “space” behind this “door” is not Bill’s living room, but his private thoughts and feelings. Here are his hopes and fears. Here are his opinions of himself and others. Here are his memories and his current projects and dilemmas.
Once Bill hears the knock, he has only a split second to decide how to respond. Will he open the door? How far will he open the door?
Let me suggest this key for deciphering Bill’s answers.
Bill might say, “Good to see you, too! How are you?” This is equivalent to not opening the door at all for Bob at this time.
Bill might say, “I’m fine.” This is the door opening just enough to acknowledge the knock. The chain is not removed, and the door is promptly re-closed.
Bill might say, “Pretty good,” or “OK.” This is unlocking the door, removing the chain, and opening it halfway. Halfway is open enough for Bob to see inside a little. Unless Bob asks a follow up question, the door will be closed.
Bill might say, “Good question,” or “Don’t ask,” or “I’m doing.” This is opening the door wide open, giving Bob a full view of the room inside, with all its chaos and distress. It is an invitation for Bob to follow up with another question.
Bill might say, “I’ve been better,” “How long do you have?” or especially “Not so good.” This is not only opening the door wide but welcoming Bob inside to hear the authentic truth about Bill at this moment. If the immediate setting is not conducive, plans are made for a prompt one-on-one visit.
It is good when someone knocks on a friend’s door. It is even better when the friend lets the visitor in. Friendships are built on connection and authenticity.
How do you answer knocks on your door?