Supporter Talking Tips – Did You Really Just Say That Out Loud?
“What is the worst thing someone said after I was diagnosed? Hmm…do I have to pick just one answer? There are so many!” —Anonymous
We asked a room full of young adult cancer patients and survivors what the worst thing someone ever said to them after they were diagnosed and some of their answers about knocked our socks off.
- “Too bad you just dyed your hair.”
- “Is your disease contagious?”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
Did they really say that out loud? When we don’t know what to say to someone to comfort them, things can get kind of awkward, and it’s easy to say things that we think are helpful when in reality, they are unhelpful and sometimes even offensive. Often, we might not even know that what we said was wrong because our friend is too nice to call us out.
The b-present Foundation’s Supporter Talking Tips are designed to help supporters avoid saying things they might later regret…because no one wants to join the “Did You Really Just Say That Out Loud?” Club.
The b-aware Program
Our b-aware program focuses on educating young adults on the importance of presence and empowering them to support their friends through thick and thin. By sharing other perspectives and lessons on how to express and provide support with our community now, they will be prepared to be strong supporters whenever their friend needs them most.
Supporter Talking Tips
We feature monthly Supporter Talking Tips across our social media channels. Our goal in creating these tips is to show the helpful and unhelpful way things can be said. Many of the tips we share are cancer-focused but can apply to a variety of life situations. Every tip is based on a real story or situation that at least one cancer patient (and often many) has experienced.
The tips are presented in a side-by-side graphic with an unhelpful phrase on the right and a helpful phrase on the left so readers can see just how easy it is to adjust their choice of words to ensure a positive outcome. The unhelpful reflects the thoughtless comments typically said in awkward small talk or when projecting our opinions on their situation. In contrast, the helpful reflects empathy and understanding of the current physical and emotional state of the cancer patient.
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Finding the right words is not always easy. Think of it less as finding the “right” words, and more as finding the best words in that moment. Candy-coating or avoiding topics altogether, in general, is unhelpful. Have the courage to engage in the topics they want to discuss. Sometimes just acknowledging the reality of the situation without being judgemental or dismissive makes a huge difference. Become comfortable with saying “I don’t know what to say” because at least you are being honest. Listening is often a good alternative and in some cases, better than saying anything.
Even with all the tips in the world, we will still make mistakes. When that happens, own it, apologize, and, if appropriate, have a laugh about it. Talk about how to fix it for next time. Then move forward…together.
Have a tip to share?
Now is your chance to have an impact on future supporters and patients. We would love to share your story and feature your talking tip on your social media! Anonymous or acknowledged—it’s all up to you.
Part of the dreaded “Club” and wish you could go back and change something you said? This is your chance for a do-over. Were you on the receiving end of an eye-rolling remark? This is your chance to fix it for all future supporters and cancer patients. Share with us here!