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  • Ian

Unhelpful things people can say

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

We all have challenges in life that we have to deal with. Having children (and grandchildren too sometimes) that decide to make their home a long way away from you is one of them. When you’re in this situation, managing your feelings can be tricky, but an already difficult situation can be made worse by other people’s clumsy comments. It's amazing how insensitive people can be, without even realising the impact of their words.  I've had various comments made over the years that have been far from helpful.

 You’ve probably had experience of this yourself – family, friends, work colleagues or other acquaintances speaking before they’ve got their brain into gear. What's amazing, though, is that 99% of the time people don't even realise the effect on you of what they are saying.  I thought it was worth mentioning just three of the ones that stick in my mind, so that you know you aren't alone in being on the receiving end of these thoughtless comments. How about these then...

1. ' Oh poor you'

- accompanied by a tilt of the head and a down-turned mouth. Is their sad expression supposed to make you feel better? However well intentioned this comment is, it just doesn’t help. It might be an attempt to sound sympathetic, but – and it’s quite hard to explain this – while you want people to understand, you probably don’t want their sympathy. You don’t want to feel ‘unlucky’ compared to other people. You want to feel less unhappy about your situation. ‘Oh poor you’ can make you feel like a victim, when what you are actually looking for is a positive way of coping with the situation.

2. 'I'd be gutted if my children decided to emigrate'

Anybody with any degree of sensitivity would realise that if they would be ‘gutted’ at the thought of their kids emigrating, then it’s quite possible that you might be feeling that way too. People who come out with this type of thing are voicing their thoughts without pausing to think before they speak. Being on the receiving end of such a clumsy comment can feel like having salt rubbed into a wound. Even if the person talking to you is well intentioned, this particular comment can make them sound smug. And, they are thinking about how they would feel, rather than how you yourself are feeling.

3. 'What did you do that made them want to live so far away from you?'

Yes, believe it or not, there are people who think it’s ok to say something like this!

This is the one that completely floored me! A new (admittedly younger) work colleague, on hearing that my two sons were living in Australia and Japan, probably thought that he was being witty when he came out with this one.  At least that's my generous take on what he said. But it was a real shock to hear. And actually, it set me off thinking afterwards. Was it my fault? Had I done something to make them emigrate? Of course I hadn’t! My sons were confident and adventurous and were simply striking out on their own. The work colleague, who was still living at home with his parents, really hit the wrong note with his remark and to be honest I can't remember my response to him, although I'd like to think that it was something on the lines of having brought our sons up to be independent, strong minded and resourceful young people who were well equipped to ‘fly the nest’ when they reached adulthood.

Have you had any crass and unhelpful comments yourself, or ones that made you squirm?  How did you respond?

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