A reader asked:
I was wondering if you or your readers might have some advice. I have very poor balance and a pronounced limp due to a life-threatening illness and I work with the public. They comment on it, often asking what happened. It’s motivated by concern, but it’s embarrassing(I literally make people sad just by leaving the house) and I don’t know how to respond (do they think it’s going to be a funny story?). I think I’m bad for business and could quit if I really wanted. How do I deal with this issue?
I don’t know. I have a couple of guesses based on things I and friends have experienced. I think many readers of this blog are more qualified to answer this than I am.
Here are my guesses:
Keep in mind that working with the public doesn’t mean you anyone an explanation of your health issues:
- Just because someone asks doesn’t mean you have to explain
- If you give an answer, it doesn’t have to be accurate
- It’s your business and not theirs
Sometimes people aren’t actually looking for information. Sometimes they just want reassurance that they’re not supposed to be rescuing you.
- For people like that, it might help to say something like “Don’t worry; I’m used to it.”
Some people are obnoxious nosy jerks, and I don’t know of any good approaches to them. The best I’ve seen is pretending they haven’t said what they’ve said, or else telling them in plain language to knock it off.
- It might be better to say something like “Don’t worry, I’m used to it.” Sometimes what people want isn’t information; they sometimes really just want reassurance that there isn’t anything they should be doing to fix it.
- Or something obviously absurd like “I’m recovering from a zombie attack.”
- It’s also ok to say “That’s a rather personal question.” That probably works better with colleagues or in social situations than when working with the public, though.
It also might help to change the subject to something that’s actually on topic for your job. It’s possible that what they really want is reassurance that it’s ok for them to be asking you to help them even though you look sick. Eg:
- “You look like you’re falling over. Are you ok? What’s wrong?”
- “I’m fine. Can I help you select some sunglasses? There’s a sale on women’s styles this week.”
Anyway, those are my guesses. Any of y’all have more informed advice?