There seems to be a spate of blog posts, Facebook status updates, and other public forum messages with a similar theme:
People are mean/rude/ignorant to me because they don’t know my pain.
Yep, that happens a lot. I can speak from far too much experience about the meanness, rudeness, or ignorance of folks – I had a mentally retarded child. My ticket to ride this train has been punched.
What I have to say here is not to those folks who hurt our feelings by their words and acts; I want to talk to those of us who are on the other side of the situation.
There are many ways one can react to an unkind word or act, among them:
- Ignore it.
- Respond in kind; say something rude, in return.
- Say nothing, but let it ruin your day by stewing about it.
- Offer a little help to stop more folks from feeling hurt.
Response #1, if you can truly manage to do it, is always a good choice.
For reasons of common sense and personal safety – and self-respect – I would strongly advise that no one EVER chose Response #2.
Many of us have found ourselves defaulting to Response #3, which does no good for anyone.
In lots of cases, I believe Response #4 is the absolute best choice. Sometimes, people do not mean to be insensitive; they simply do not know any better. If we can teach them a little bit about a disability, hardship, or handicap that caused the hurtful behavior, there’s a chance they might be more careful in what they say to others.
I can hear some of you shrieking at me, “It’s not my responsibility to tell those jerks anything. It’s none of their business. I don’t owe them . . .” You’re right, but that position does no good, UNLESS you can sincerely ignore it, which, by the looks of your posts, I know you can’t.
Any time you can, with a simple comment, like “I appreciate that you are concerned about keeping handicapped spaces open for the truly handicapped, for, although it is not obvious, I am one of them. Thank you for your concern,” you give the person a chance to learn that not everything is as it looks on the surface. No, you don’t owe them a thing. No, it does not always do any good. Yes, you can, if it fails, fall back on Response #1, 2, or 3 . . .
In those times, when I have used Response #4 – and I admit I have had a LOT of practice – I felt better for having offered some helpful information. Whether the person on the other end of the conversation accepted it or not was immaterial; I had tried to make it better.
Whatever response you choose, aim to make things better. Please.