Don't Tell Me What Not To Say

4 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

     A few weeks back, a friend posted this article on Facebook titled, "Ten Things You Should Never Say To Someone With Chronic Pain".  These things float around on every topic.  "Nine Things You Should Never Say to Breastfeeding Mothers", "Top Eight Things You Don't Mention to Foster Parents", "Five Things You Should Never Say to Someone With Bi-Racial Children" etc.  I could go on forever.  Except this time, I just felt super irritated when I finished it.  I couldn't figure out why for a long time.  Then, a light bulb went off.  Instead of helping me understand something better, the article served only to alienate me and tell me I was stupid for saying certain things.  I felt like I was being given a command across the web: "Shut your pie hole and only tell me things that I want to hear.  Or else."

     Also, not everyone who has a certain condition or lifestyle is going to be put off by the same things.  I hate it when people mention my heart surgery scar, but I usually like people asking about my scars from cutting because I feel like I can use my experience to help others.  I didn't feel the same way 8 years ago, though.  Not everyone is going to feel the same way.  I don't feel like you're serving your community in any way by telling everyone how much they annoy you when they are voicing their concern for you or offering help (even if it is the "wrong" thing to say).  If I am so worried that I am going to say the wrong thing and make you angry, I might just avoid you altogether.  In reality, that helps neither one of us.

     The other thing that bugs me about these articles is this: basically, that author (and whoever re-posts the article) is telling me what bugs them without actually telling me to my face.  Which is a major pet peeve of mine after growing up with a passive aggressive parent.  Got a problem?  I've got a face you can talk to and I have ears to listen.  Do you want people to care?  Then stop bossing them around online.  Try opening up to those close to you and telling them when they're upsetting you.  Ignore strangers' remarks; they don't have an effect on your life anyway.  They are also probably not reading your blog.  People are not all as heartless as you might imagine.  I think a good many comments that are flung in your direction come from a good place, no matter how poorly they are executed.  

      If you want someone to understand you, how about writing an article about your condition or lifestyle that helps others see where you are coming from.  Telling me I'm not allowed to say, "I'm sorry" (when that may honestly be the only thing that comes to mind and I don't want to just say nothing) is rediculous.  Telling me, "Don't say, 'They're so lucky to have you!'", is like telling me not to have an opinion unless it is your own.  That is not helpful.  It doesn't open up dialogue between us; it shuts the conversation down.   It doesn't help me see your opinion; it tells me I need to have your opinion or stop talking to you.

     I love encouraging others but I don't always have perfect words.  I don't always know what to say or how to treat someone the exact way they would prefer, but I do try.  I do come from a good place in my heart.  I am not trying to be mean.  But, I also don't need a step-by-step manual to have a conversation with you.  Please, don't alienate me before I even hear your side...or I won't hear it at all over my fuming thoughts in my own head.    

     How about this title instead:  If you are going to be a jerk, keep your mouth closed.  We don't even need a whole blog post on that.  My mother (and yours, I'm sure) always said,"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all".  That's it.  Plain and simple.  I don't need a list, I will just evaluate my heart and if I'm going to say something just to be jerk, I will do my best to keep my mouth closed.  And you, list maker, if I'm just trying to be nice but you take it the wrong way, maybe you should try to re-evaluate why you are upset in the first place, and give me some grace.  We are both only human.  Let's have a real conversation.