How do we deal with inept remarks and advice from well-meaning people?

I’m often asked how to deal with inept remarks and unsolicited advice from well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) friends, family, spiritual “leaders” and “professionals.”

In the days soon after Matt died people said such weird, mean, cruel, unthinking things. It’s unbelievable, the crap we hear. So. How do you respond?

I think it depends – on your relationship with the person, and on your own energy levels. Sometimes you don’t have it in you to re-educate someone. Sometimes you don’t want to get into it because the person will retaliate in some way.

There are absolutely things you can say that help the speaker understand the error of their ways.

In response to something like, “I can’t believe you’re still sad about that. I mean, I’d be over it by now.” You can say things like, “Actually, the memories of our good times are especially painful right now, and they don’t make up for his loss.” or, “Huh. Well, I hope you never need to find out how wrong you are.”

Or, “I know you mean well. Telling me to look on the bright side actually makes me feel like you’re really uncomfortable with me being sad. Is that true?” < I LOVE THIS ONE AND ITS VARIATIONS. I’d use this one for either relationships that mean a lot to you, or relationships you no longer (or never) cared about.

Why those two? Well, for the first one, having a difficult discussion about the ways we show up for each other – being curious about each others’ experience and perspective – can help deepen a relationship. And in the second case, a slight change in tone (but still terribly nice) puts the crappy platitude right back in the other person’s lap where it belongs.

Also, if you’re wrestling with how to respond to dismissive comments, unhelpful platitudes, grief-splaining, and other inept remarks while still “being nice” – check out this video.

How about you? Have you come up with any responses to have ready when someone says something awful to you? Other people in this community can use your ideas.

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