Watch: What We Really Mean When We Say “I’m Fine”

Polysemy: the capacity for a sign (such as a word, phrase, or symbol) to have multiple meanings.

There are few responses that evoke as many connotations as “I’m Fine”. You can be fine as in you’re feeling fine, comme ci comme ça, bene, sound. You can be fine as in your neither here nor there, mediocre, average. Or you can be fine as in you’re not fine but you don’t want to bother anybody, and according to a new study, that’s a variant that is becoming all too familiar.

According to the poll the average adult will say ‘I’m fine’ 14 times a week, even though just 19 per cent mean it. Almost a third of those surveyed said they often lie about how they are feeling to other people, while one in ten went as far to say they always lie about their emotional state.

And this dishonesty goes both ways, with 59 per cent of us expecting the answer to be a lie when we ask others “How are you feeling?” As for those ‘fine’ Brits, 34 per cent use “I’m fine” as a response because it is more convenient than explaining how they really feel, while 23 per cent say it because they think the person asking isn’t really interested.

Men are more than twice as likely to be dishonest to others when it comes to their emotions, with 22 per cent admitting they always lie about how they feel, compared to 10 per cent of women.

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation who commissioned the research said: “While it may appear that most of us are happy openly discussing feelings, these survey results reveal that many of us are really just sticking to a script.

“This creates an illusion of support. On the surface, we’re routinely checking in with each other but beneath that, many of us feel unable to say how we’re really feeling.”

Watch, what we really mean when we say “I’m fine”.

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