Monday, March 12, 2012

You Don't Say, Again

It astonishes me that this scourge continues. The latest form that I have observed is actually somewhat related to last week's series of posts by guest blogger Isa Catto Shaw on bereavement. It doesn't deal with death, but does demonstrate what not to say when commenting on the difficulties of others. In other words, prime illustrations of people who never learned that oh-so-simple rule "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing."

I've seen a lot of really ugly parent on parent commentary of late.....Two examples come to mind in particular, variations on the same thoughtless, rude, and maybe even cruel theme:

1. Parent A has a child with severe ADHD. Parent A works hard to help said child with the challenge, and has made strides through various interventions. Parent B has a child with a similar challenge--in fact, the kids share a tutor and attend the same study skills seminar. Parent B is often heard to say to Parent A "Gosh, I don't know how you do it. Your situation is so much worse than ours. I mean, you're in a whole different ball park."

2. J has a teenage nephew with severe anxiety. One of the treatments for the anxiety was for the nephew to travel alone on a visit to J, experience the successful separation from his home, and gain confidence in reducing his nerves. He did, and a good time was had by all. J's friend, Parent Q has a child with an almost identical disorder; upon meeting J's nephew during the visit, Parent Q pulled J aside and said, "Wow. I'm really glad that my son doesn't have anything that bad. I mean, I'm really worried about that kid. Our problem is very simple and easily fixed. Not your nephew's though. Whew. His poor parents."

In the face of such abject rudeness, What's a Grace To Do?

You have two options.

Option one is to say nothing. True Graces diffuse rather than escalate situations, so the UberGrace simply ignores the heartless comment, chalks it up to Gruntliness, changes the subject, or tactfully removes herself from the situation.

In choosing Option One, and if you aspire to sainthood in addition to Gracehood, you can consider the villains' perspectives; perhaps they think they are being empathetic by recognizing how difficult these problems are. (They are, of course dreadfully wrong). Or perhaps they are seeking to make themselves feel better by favorably comparing their situation to one they deem more difficult. (They have absolutely no right to tromp on the feelings of others in order to bolster their own.)

Option two is to say something. If the diffusion option is too passive for you, or if you have simply had enough, here are some responses which assert your position while still maintaining some Grace.

"I tend to avoid comparisons, I just focus on our situation and wish the best for everyone."

Or (slightly more assertive):

"I'm sure you are trying to be empathetic, and for that I thank you, but that doesn't make me feel any better."

[I know, I know, you are tempted to say, "If you could pry your Joey off the chandelier I'm sure I could more clearly see how much better your ball park is than mine," but it won't do you any good.]

"I'm really proud of nephew; he's done a great job facing his fears and we've had a lovely visit."

"I'm glad you're glad."

[Resist the urge to remind Parent Q that her son assumed the fetal position and hyperventilated under the desk when the school planned a trip to the Art Museum sans parent chaperons.]

Have you witnessed any parent on parent nastiness lately? What did YOU do?

1 comment:

Ruby's said...

I find exercising restraint to be one of the most challenging areas. I usually am at loss how to handle thoughtless remarks. So, this post is a real treasure.