Dealing With Insensitive People
By: Linda Burhans
When you are stressed about a diagnosis like cancer it isn’t helpful when people say things like “Cheer up!” or “It could be worse.” In fact, it is downright hurtful because they are implying that it would be easy to do those things when, in fact it is not.
When dealing with insensitive people, consider the following.
First, look at things from their perspective. I am going to give people the benefit of the doubt and suggest to you that their responses come from ignorance and fear. If they haven’t been through a similar challenge, then they have no frame of reference and truly may not understand your perspective. Also, I would say that they can’t imagine being in your situation and that the thought of it may terrify them. Since they can’t relate, they tend to minimize the situation so as to comfort themselves.
Secondly, I think that we teach people how we want to be treated by the way we react to them. If someone is saying things to you that are hurtful in your situation and you say nothing and just “take it,” then you are, in effect, giving them permission to do so. Don’t stay quiet and dwell on it. Tell them that they are being hurtful. You can do it in a nice way; after all they may be ignorant or afraid. Most people aren’t hurtful on purpose and will try to avoid hurting you in the future.
If understanding them doesn’t help, and if asking them to change their behavior doesn’t help then you have a choice to make. You can continue to try to educate them how to treat you, you can try to ignore what bothers you, or you can shut them out completely .Shutting people out can be difficult, but it is also difficult to deal with their insensitivity.
Lastly, surround yourself with solid support. Supportive people are those who nurture and love you. They don't try to tear you down when you are feeling the most vulnerable. Supportive people don't judge, and are far less likely to make insensitive comments. If you don't have a solid support system at home, then join a cancer support group either in your community or online. The results will amaze you.