All of us have either said something we regret, or been on the receiving end of remarks that were supposed to be helpful, but turned out instead to be hurtful.
So why do insensitive and downright dumb things pop out of the mouths of people who truly mean well, especially in response to serious health situations? The short answer: human nature.
Cure for Foot-In-Mouth
In our last article: 7 Things You Should Never Say to Patients or Caregivers, we offered tips on how to keep foot and mouth a fair distance apart.
As a reminder, pinch yourself—really hard—if any of these words ever begin to tumble from your lips:
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “This is God’s plan.”
- “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
- “At least it’s not cancer.”
- “Just think positive thoughts.”
- “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
- “At least you have one healthy child.
Everyone Means Well
And now for a longer answer to the question, “Why Smart People Say Dumb Things?”
People almost always mean well. Most CaringBridge users would probably find this to be true.
But sometimes when people are trying to say they care, or that they feel really bad about what is happening, things get muddy.
If only there was an international signal for “Stop Talking! Right now! Please!”
Translate the Message
It is often helpful to look for the sentiments that lie behind clumsy expressions. What are people actually trying to say when the wrong words come spewing out?
Probably they are trying to say they feel terrible, and would do anything to take away pain and suffering. It’s just not easy to say.
CaringBridge users have said that nearly every mangled communication about a health situation is an attempt to express one or more of the following:
- “I care.”
- “You’re so strong.”
- “I have faith that you’re going to get through this.”
- “I’m here for you.”
- “My story that is similar shows I have a glimmer of what you may be going through.”
Care to Share Your Own Tips?
Please add to the conversation by sharing in the “Comment” section below how you may have translated the actual meaning of something that has been poorly said.