Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What To Say?

What are helpful (versus unhelpful) things to say to friends who are under the weather, having an off day, or downright ill? Most people have struggled with what to say at some time or another. Many have been recipients of unhelpful comments. Letty Catlin Pogrelbin recently released a book entitled “How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who is Sick.” It is filled with suggestions of what to say and what to avoid saying. Perhaps I found it unusually interesting because of my recent hip-joint replacement surgery. Whenever I’m on the opposite side of health care (a patient rather than a provider), there is always something to learn—especially from well-wishers and visitors. It can be tempting to think you know what the person you are calling or visiting needs and yet the most comfort you can offer is more likely related to what the person perceives he/she needs or wants. For example, “Tell me how I can help,” may be more effective than saying, “Let me do such and such for you.” Rather than asking, “How are you?” try, “What are you feeling today?” That leaves the door open to answer “fine, okay, fair-to-middlin’, improving, none of your business,” or whatever, rather than the person sensing any obligation to rehearse diagnosis and treatment options. Small things. Yes. But good things often come in small packages.

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