Author Topic: How to handle the tactless or offensive  (Read 5125 times)

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missmolly

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How to handle the tactless or offensive
« on: April 10, 2014, 08:08:21 PM »
My good friend Lisa has a physical handicap and uses a wheelchair. Recently I was out with her at a shopping complex when a woman who was clearly a few sandwiches short of a picnic came up to Lisa and started waffling on about how terrible it was for Lisa, how sorry she was for her, etc. Lisa handled her very well, answering her questions politely and bean dipping her when her overwrought pity became offensive. When it was clear that the woman wasn't going to leave her alone any time soon, I announced that we had a to go, so we moved off to another part of the complex.

I asked Lisa if that sort of thing happened to her a lot. She said it did, and that the only time she had gotten angry was when a stranger came up and told her that she was in a wheelchair as 'punishment' for her sins. Lisa's response was to tell the woman that she didn't know her and she had no business saying something like that. She admitted that even the milder encounters make her feel uncomfortable, but she's not sure how to tell people that they are bothering her.

Should Lisa just suck it up and humor them? Or is there some way to tell them that they are offending her when they tell her how terrible it must be for her. And did she handle the second lady properly, or was she rude?
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Acadianna

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2014, 08:20:06 PM »
Your friend behaved with amazing patience and graciousness.  The woman who accosted her was very rude.

I would deal with such people by saying, "I prefer not to discuss this."  And then I'd turn and move away.

poundcake

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2014, 08:37:26 PM »
Can Lisa carry a squirt bottle with her in case of these encounters?

I had a relative who lost her hair due to non-cancerous illness. Rarely could she go out in public without someone asking her about her cancer, personal medical information, blessing her, or asking to pray for/with her. After several of these particularly over-the-top encounters in just one day, she tearfully commented that she knew some people meant well, but she was "tired of being everyone's Hallmark moment of the day." After some brainstorming, we came up with the "carry a water pistol" solution, which was, sadly, only hypothetical. More often than not, the commentators really deserved a blast of cold water to the face.

EllenS

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2014, 10:29:23 PM »
I'm a big fan of the arched eyebrow and a cold "Excuse me, have we met? No? I thought not." Or the ever-useful, "What an interesting assumption."  Complete silence is also perfectly fine.

One step less chilly would be "Thank you for your concern. Excuse me." (while leaving)

Lisa may desire to be extra gracious to these condescending strangers, and that is her perogative.  However, as far as etiquette is concerned, "politeness" does not require that you engage in any sort of unwanted conversation with strangers.

Manners-wise, this sort of intrusiveness is no different than being catcalled on the street. Lisa does not owe these people any sort of response.


Cali.in.UK

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2014, 04:13:40 AM »
"Your pity is unnecessary, I do not feel like my situation is so unfortunate, have a nice day. Anyway, Friend as we were saying…"

TootsNYC

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2014, 08:28:38 AM »
Or, maybe completely ignore the substance of their comment and launch right in on educating them:

"You know, people llike you approach me all the time. I feel like I have an obligation to alert you--it's really offensive. People like me get frustrated and insulted. I know people like you mean well, but it's really very patronizing. And, you run into one of us every now and then--we get bombarded with comments like yours constantly, so it also gets really old, really fast. It's not polite to approach a total stranger and butt into their personal business, actually--and I can't think of anything more personal than someone'shealth.  So in the future it's best to simply smile at someone and keep on about your business.
   "I thought I'd let you know, because you seem like a nice person, and I'd hate to have someone like me really let you have it on some day when they can't take any more."

Edited to add:

I'm sure there are other phrases that are less combative:

"Since you wish me well, I thought I'd let you know that the *most* helpful thing is to simply smile and go about your business. I know you want to be encouraging, but the truth is it has the exact opposite effect."

« Last Edit: April 11, 2014, 08:30:26 AM by TootsNYC »

siamesecat2965

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2014, 09:37:47 AM »
I think Lisa handled things just fine. My mom is in a wheelchair, has been for almost the last 20 years, and to the best of my knowledge, at least when out with me, she has never encountered ANYONE asking or commenting on WHY she's in one.

I do like the squirt bottle idea though >:D

She has had a couple of small kids look curiously at her, but never said anything, but that's different. Kids are curious and don't know a lot of things adults do.

And my mom lives alone, drives, and can pretty much do whatever needs to be done, aside from things that are physically impossible for her. And has never once whined or carried on about her situation. She's my hero!

tinkytinky

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2014, 09:49:44 AM »
I think she did fine with both ladies. Some people wouldn't get it with a clue by four or even coming right out and saying it's offensive.

a few key phrases would be enough for most situations.

"Oh, how awful for you!"
"you would think so, wouldn't you! but I'm just like anyone else, I just always have a place to sit!" or "No, not really! I don't dwell on what I can't do, I just focus on what I can!"

"You are being punished for your sins"
"I know! I can see right up your nose! That's a terrible punishment!"

I have a 13 yo neice who is in a wheelchair because of Cerebral Palsey. a wheelchair is all she has ever known (they have tried various surgeries and therapy, with little results). She never understood when people would say how horrible for her because that's all she's ever known. Now though, she just tells them "look at it this way, I got a set of wheels before any of my friends!"

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TootsNYC

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2014, 11:03:13 AM »
thought of another tactic.

She can interrupt them and say, "That's nice of you, but I'm busy shopping [with my friend]/[and don't have a lot of time]. Do you mind?" with a *NICE* tone of voice on the "do you mind?" Sort of "would you excuse me?" Actually, "would you excuse us?" is a nice phrase as well.

And then turn away and GO away.

The Wild One, Forever

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2014, 12:17:38 PM »
I'm so glad my cousin never had to deal with this during her battle with ALS, the few times she went out in public in her power chair with her mask on.  She had quite the mouth on her and would not have hesitated to tell people where to go.    :P  In our experience, strangers were much nicer and more polite than friends who would come by to visit, and ask personal and/or upsetting questions.  In fact, I started a thread about that very issue last summer, got some great advice from Toots, and we handled it. 

I believe some of the advice I got could be extrapolated to a stranger situation, as well.  Lisa could tell anyone who approached her, "This conversation is upsetting to me.  I don't know you, and I certainly don't owe you any personal information.  Please leave me to enjoy my day, and I hope you have a good one, too."  Or, something to that effect.
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Aquamarine

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2014, 02:02:24 PM »
I might consider pulling out the big guns for this type of interaction.  "I am a human. being with feelings and what you are asking is not only completely hurtful and inappropriate, it's none of your concern".  Don't worry about embarrassing these clods, they certainly don't care about embarrassing or calling attention to the disabled person.

A nice trite, sweet reply may make them think that that one particular disabled person doesn't want to talk about it but when you put in the "I am a human being" part it might give them pause.
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The Wild One, Forever

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2014, 02:14:26 PM »
I might consider pulling out the big guns for this type of interaction.  "I am a human. being with feelings and what you are asking is not only completely hurtful and inappropriate, it's none of your concern".  Don't worry about embarrassing these clods, they certainly don't care about embarrassing or calling attention to the disabled person.

A nice trite, sweet reply may make them think that that one particular disabled person doesn't want to talk about it but when you put in the "I am a human being" part it might give them pause.

Good answer!
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Arila

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2014, 05:17:13 PM »
"What you just said was rude, offensive, and hurtful. Leave me alone."

I would not spare their feelings, and I would be sharp and cold about it too.

lakey

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2014, 05:53:06 PM »
I have an acquaintance who has used the phrase, "That's kind of personal."
I like that because, frankly, these people are starting conversations with  strangers about things that are none of their business.

jedikaiti

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Re: How to handle the tactless or offensive
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2014, 06:46:18 PM »
Or, maybe completely ignore the substance of their comment and launch right in on educating them:

"You know, people llike you approach me all the time. I feel like I have an obligation to alert you--it's really offensive. People like me get frustrated and insulted. I know people like you mean well, but it's really very patronizing. And, you run into one of us every now and then--we get bombarded with comments like yours constantly, so it also gets really old, really fast. It's not polite to approach a total stranger and butt into their personal business, actually--and I can't think of anything more personal than someone'shealth.  So in the future it's best to simply smile at someone and keep on about your business.
   "I thought I'd let you know, because you seem like a nice person, and I'd hate to have someone like me really let you have it on some day when they can't take any more."

Edited to add:

I'm sure there are other phrases that are less combative:

"Since you wish me well, I thought I'd let you know that the *most* helpful thing is to simply smile and go about your business. I know you want to be encouraging, but the truth is it has the exact opposite effect."

Have some business cards printed up.
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