This is something I believe everyone ask another at some point in their life. I know i ask it of the people I care for every time I sense that something is bothering them. I get asked the same question at least 3 times a week. I think that we do it out of instinct and are not even aware that we are about to ask the question.
Lets first address that, even though it is a mindless question, it is asked out of true concern. Nobody would ask it if they did not have real concern. The reason I say that it is a mindless question is, because even though I ask it, I see it being asked and I am asked myself, not one person I know has ever been able to answer the follow up question. Which is, why do you ask. We say, you seem off or you do not seem like yourself. We never ask with something tangible.
The truth is, we have noticed that the individual is not alright. Something is wrong and even though we care somewhat, what we are really doing is pointing it out that the individual is not acting like themselves and we want them to snap out of it. I am slowly realizing that I am glad that someone has noticed but I absolutely dislike the question. It feel that it is crazy that I ask it or that anyone ask it of another.
My gut has been telling me lately to say, No I am not alright! I do not want to lie to you so if you really want to know, pull up a chair and let me cry on your shoulder. I have pain to unload so get ready! But of coarse I do not do this. Nobody does! I am also realizing, due to my experience is, if I notice that something is so wrong that a person has changed their behavior then they are definitely not alright. If I really care and want to know I should simply say how can I help you, I see that something is wrong and I care.
Now I am not saying that people do not care when they ask. I am only saying that we obviously see something wrong so we should just get to the point. We already know that the first time we ask almost everyone will instinctively state “nothing is wrong” or “I am okay.” We know this before we even answer the question. I know that I do.
In my days of gloom I suppose what I really want is a hug and for someone to actually say that they see that I am not okay and they still care for me. If I want they will sit with me until I am or they have to go. This is also what I really want to say. I see you, I love you and I am all ears if you need to talk. These are the things I really want to say. I have been able to follow it up after I asked the mindless question and I am told that they are okay.