If I hear those words “you seem a little off” one more time, I would suggest that everyone run and hide because I am going to blow up and it’s not going to be pretty.
If you’re one of the people who says that, I understand that you’re trying to be nice but please, please take a moment to think before you speak because you truly have no idea what doors you’re opening and what emotional scabs you’re picking at.
If I happen to be having a good day (or hour) and you tell me I seem a little off, I instantly feel deflated. Here I was thinking I was finally doing a little better; I had a little relief from the heaviness, a little light in my day. With that one statement, you invalidate those positive feelings and send me back onto the slippery slope into darkness.
How about considering the possibility that you’re ‘a little off’ with your assessment of other people’s moods? And are we really now going to have a debate about who’s right about how I’m feeling? (Apparently the answer is yes, because believe it or not, most people will actually insist that I’m off even after I’ve told them I’m fine.)
So let’s make a new rule. Just like you shouldn’t walk up to a woman who’s carrying a little extra weight and ask her if she’s pregnant, don’t walk up to a woman and tell her she seems a little off. Deal? If you don’t abide by this rule, I reserve the right to kick you in the shin.
Or, perhaps you’re right and I really am feeling off that day. Congratulations, you astute mood-spotter, you’re right. I’m sitting here with a pit in my stomach, fighting back tears, masking it with laughs and smiles. And then you come by my desk and loudly say ‘you seem a little off’ as you’re on your way out to lunch, or passing by to get a coffee, or as an aside while you’re chatting with colleagues. What do you want me to say? This is neither the time nor place to open that can of worms. I don’t have a simple answer for you about sleep deprivation or a sore throat.
Yes, I’m a little off. I’m exhausted from basic functioning, from mind-numbing chit-chat, and from suffocating insincerity. And now, thanks to you, I have to try to muster up the energy to jump through the hoops you want me to jump through in order to convince you that I’m fine.
So, what do I think you should do when you think someone is a little off? If you genuinely are worried about them and want to know if they’re ok, please reach out when you have both the time and the privacy to talk, and be prepared to open your heart and actually listen to how they’re feeling. Because maybe you’re reaching out at a moment when things are on the verge of falling apart, and if you’re not ready for the fallout then it’s best to just smile warmly and move along with your day lest you end up doing more harm than good. And it may just save you from getting kicked in the shin.