If you are the parent, caregiver, or family member of a medically complex child, you’ve likely dealt with ignorance and insensitivity, sometimes in spades. It’s an unfortunate reality — there will always be people who speak without forethought, understanding, or awareness of the damage they could cause. For some reason, they believe proximity gives them the right to comment.
Your reactions have likely run the gamut, from patient to argumentative to downright mad. Frankly, all of those feelings are fair, and the type of morning you’ve had may just be the determining factor. In general, though, and we know this, a calm state of mind is usually best for both you and your child. So, while attempting to stay calm — the key term being “attempt” — try to walk through the following of dealing with toxic, insensitive, or ignorant comments.
5 Ways to Deal With Ignorance & Insensitivity
- Ignore: While it’s often the healthiest response, it can be the most difficult. There is nothing like a rude comment to send us into fight mode. First, assess whether you have the emotional bandwidth for any kind of response. If not, ignore, ignore, ignore. It’s the old adage — “turn the other cheek.” Some people truly are just looking for a reaction, so don’t give them the satisfaction.
- Teach: You can usually tell if insensitivity comes from a well-meaning (albeit poorly-informed) place. If you have the energy and time, treat the situation as a teaching moment. Correct what they said and stand up for you and your child. Your heart rate might start to spike, so try to think of a series of appropriate and informative responses ahead of time. Alternatively, have a few resources to share off the top of your head.
- Express your anger: So many of us have been taught that anger is inherently bad, but I don’t think that’s true. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you yell, or push, or point fingers in faces; just don’t be afraid to express yourself. “Calm yet angry” is actually pretty intimidating, so at the very least, you might scare them off. Feel every feeling, even the uncomfortable ones. Otherwise, they tend to linger. If you have a few minutes during your week, try writing down what you’d like to say to the offending individual.
- Set boundaries: Put some thought into what kinds of situations and comments call for a response, and then draw a few hard lines. Decide what’s worth spending your valuable physical and emotional energy on because sometimes, a person’s ugly comment is a sign of their own baggage, nothing more. And it’s not your responsibility to unpack their baggage. If the insensitive person is actually part of your life in some way, don’t hesitate to limit their access to you either.
- Vent to your people: When you need to, vent to your community. Sometimes, you just need to talk things out. The beauty of having a community like the one we have here at Gus Gear is that there’s always an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on. So, if you feel like it’s you against all the ignorance in the world, tell your fellow caregivers all about it. Chances are, they can relate. It’s a group effort to get by, and get by we will.
Give Yourself a Break
Last but not least, give yourself a break if you don’t always react the way you’d like to. You’re only human, and at the end of the day, these methods of dealing with ignorance aren’t about making the individual feel comfortable or even more aware — they’re about allowing you to go on with your day with a sense of authenticity, confidence, and satisfaction.
Do you have other strategies to deal with ignorance or insensitive comments? Please, share!