Tuesday, December 11, 2007

When People Say Dumb Things

Charlie Brown said, "I've developed a new life philosophy — I only dread one day at a time." As we progress on our journey, we can often come to dread the crazy things that come out of well-wisher's mouths sometimes. In many cases, I believe people truly believe they are being helpful. I've adopted Hanlon's Razor as a good rule of thumb, namely to never assume malice when stupidity will suffice. They just don't know what they don't know.

I've come across three different responses (or comebacks, or retorts, depending on your mood) that can come in handy. The first one comes from Ann Landers and is probably the gentlest of the bunch. So when someone says, "well, at least he's no longer suffering," or "you're fortunate in that you knew she was going to die," or "at least you still have your children / dog / cat," you can look at them square in the face and say,

I'm sure you mean well.

For most people, this seems sufficient for them to get the hint. Then there are those more persistent people who make up the camp of DGIs for whom the previous response may not have sunk in sufficiently. Some stronger medicine may be required. A great answer for someone who says, "gee, haven't you moved on yet? It has already been a week / month / year:"

Thank you for your concern, but I'm grieving as fast as I can.

I discovered that gem by reading a book of near identical title, I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can. I think it is a great way to express some frustration while still maintaining the relationship with the dear DGI.

Some days, however, we may want to give someone both barrels, and make it abundantly plain that A) they have no idea what they are talking about, B) that they have stepped way over the line, and C) you're not interested in being on the receiving end of any more of their advice. You'll probably want to be cautious with this one, but it is pretty much guaranteed to turn off the unsolicited suggestions. If someone is in your face about how it has already been 3 months and how you should already be out there dating again, and don't you have any self-control, you're always crying, and what, are you going to grieve forever?

How about, when your spouse dies, you come on over and we can compare notes — until then, you have no idea what you are talking about.

I've never had to use it myself, but reports I've heard from widow/ers who have used it confirm that no more well-meaning advice was offered after that ;-) And quite likely you will be told that you should seek help :-P

I'll say goodnight with one of my favourite bumperstickers:

Forget Youth — How About A Fountain Of Smart?

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