What I'd Like to Hear in Place of Nothing When I Face Hardship


“You say it best when you say nothing at all.”

…so go the lyrics of the famous Ronan Keating song.

A sentiment that, while feeling true, is in most instances entirely untrue.

Nobody wants to hear unwanted advice, especially from someone who knows absolutely nothing about what they’re going through. Nobody wants to hear how someone’s ongoing battle with sinusitis is worse than their own battle with cancer or that they can’t be in much pain because they’re not complaining about it (true stories). Nobody wants to be given books to read or videos to watch about a subject they already know back to front. Nobody wants to hear a second-hand relating of what somebody who has never met them has to say about their condition.

But to say nothing hurts the most. At least we (the recipients of the unwanted advice) can graciously think to ourselves, “They meant well, at least they care.” But to be ignored, even avoided, to endure silence on the topic of your suffering, like a permanent pregnant pause: What does that mean? Is it too hard to deal with? You can’t be bothered dealing with it? You can’t be bothered with me?

We feel isolated enough without facing the prospect of rejection, whether intended or not, silently delivered or not.

So, what is the right thing to say?

I think the right thing to say is simply, “I have no idea what to say,” “I have no idea what you’re going through.”

If someone is going through trauma of some kind, that is absolutely the right thing to say.

It’s acknowledgment.

It’s acknowledgment of their pain and your empathy.

And, as a close follow-up to that, and if heartfelt, ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” “How can I learn about [insert condition]?” “Can I offer you any support?”

But for goodness sake, only say it if you mean it.

Saying it when you don’t mean it, well, you’d be better to… say nothing at all.

Living Positively Starts here @ livingpositivelywithdisability.com.

Getty image by axel2001.


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