I used to hate being asked "How was your day?" But once I stopped griping and learned to just answer it, good things happened.
Here I am, walking through the door of my apartment. I have just entered after a day of work. It could be Monday. Or Friday. Or July. Or September. It could be spewing rain, or snowing. Flag Day or National High-Five Day. The when doesn’t matter because the question I receive remains the same: How was your day?
This is a question a lot of people receive. It is a question, I imagine, that was first mumbled by cavemen and cavewomen and went from there. Ugga bugga bug bug? One asked, and it spread from cave to cave and while society and the curvature of our backs changed, this simple question remained.
It feels this way anyway. Because the question “How was your day?” seems vague, bland, and unevolved. There is no point to the asking of it except that it is a question that people ask. Worse, it is something married couples think married couples say and an example those who don’t like the trappings of marriage use to describe the institution’s monotony. It’s also just a poorly framed question. It points to no specifics and thus doesn’t indicate to its audience that the asker actually cares about one’s day, yet it demands a response. The choices of the answerer are, more or less, limited to grumbling “fine, how was yours?,” or digging around for some minutiae to create a story.
If it is not clear, I hate this question. And for a long time, I was one of the grumblers. Now, however, I answer it. Because my wife is the one doing the asking and, because I love her, I’d like her to continue asking me questions. (She also legitimately wants to know.) It’s also because, I realized, what kind of person would I become if I started a fight about such an innocuous question?
Now, I am not alone in my annoyance of this question. I have many friends, enemies, co-workers, and co-workers who are friends of enemies who have, over beers, expressed disdain for it. Some are annoyed by it; others are enraged by it. Others are a bit meh about the whole thing because what’s the point? One friend wisely pointed out that it’s not good practice to ask a kid how was your day because it’s not going to elicit a positive response, so why, then, would it be useful on your spouse? A good question.
But, as I’ve learned, it’s better to just answer it. By asking you, whether out of genuine concern or muscle memory, your spouse is allowing you to offer concrete evidence of what your life away from them is like. It may feel like work to sift through your eight or, let’s face it, more hours away and find things to talk about. And it is. Because, to you, it’s all standard stuff. But if you don’t bring up, say, a work meeting that went well, a confrontation you had with a superior, a great podcast you listened to, a bad lunch you had — that minutiae of your day-to-day life — you’re only sharing part of yourself.
The majority of us are trapped in our heads and don’t understand why people don’t understand us. Much of this happens because we rarely explain the small things. And the small things, the ones we find inconsequential or unimportant, eventually pile up and cause us to be the way we are.
As I said, I didn’t like to tell my wife about my day because, to me, my day was boring and silly. So what’s the point? But I would find myself getting annoyed that she wouldn’t know what was going on. I know, right? Because I just responded “fine” when she asked me how my day was. Because I wasn’t sharing the little things, how would she know what I was excited about or what might be weighing on me? Also, I would ask her and she would share and I would know things about her and, when I reacted to those things, I would feel as though I was somehow in a one-sided relationship where I understood her but she didn’t understood me. Because she didn’t know anything about my day.
Once I started to (begrudgingly) reply and fight my stubborn instincts, I first complained. But then, I pivoted and turned it into an exercise in positivity, sifting through my day to find little moments of joy. And this worked. I began thinking more positively about my day. How was your day? I found this pretty great sandwich shop. How was your day? The train wasn’t crowded this morning, and I was able to get a seat. How was your day? I led this meeting today and it went well. Simple. Effective.
Of course, I share the not-so-great stuff, too. Maybe it’s a bad meeting or I screwed something up. That’s always the hardest to disclose, because I don’t want to burden my wife or even admit defeat. But how else will they know what’s going on in your head? How else will you?
Now, does the asking and telling work like this every night? God no. Sometimes we are tired and cranky and unwilling to discuss anything. But most nights we force ourselves to do it. And we’re better for it. So just tell your partner about your day. It’s a stupid question, but also a good question. Besides, when someone cares enough to ask how your day was, why wouldn’t you answer them honestly?
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