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When you are stressed about a life challenge (or life in general) it isn’t helpful when people say things like “Cheer up!” or “Lighten up!” or “Don’t make such a big deal out of it.” In fact, it is downright hurtful because they are implying that it would be easy to do those things when, in fact, you are so stressed that it is not.
How can you deal with these insensitive people? Here are a couple of things to think about:
First, look at things from their perspective. I am going to give people the benefit of the doubt and suggest to you that their responses come from ignorance and fear. If they haven’t been through a similar challenge, then they have no frame of reference and truly do not understand your pressures. To add to that, I would say that they can’t imagine being in your situation and that the thought of it terrifies them. Since they can’t relate and they fear being in your position, they tend to minimize the situation so as to comfort themselves. It’s nothing personal, and I doubt that many people would sincerely criticize you for your feelings.
Next, I think that we teach people how we want to be treated by the way we react to them. If someone is saying things to you that are hurtful in your situation and you say nothing and just “take it,” then you are, in effect, giving them permission to do so. Nip it in the bud and tell them in no uncertain terms that they are being hurtful and you want them to stop. You can do it in a nice way; after all they may be ignorant or afraid (see previous paragraph!) They will probably be surprised (again, I don’t think they would be hurtful on purpose) and will try to avoid hurting you in the future.
If understanding them doesn’t help, and if asking them to change their behavior doesn’t help then you have a choice to make. You can continue to try to educate them how to treat you, you can try to ignore what bothers you, you can avoid the sensitive topic, or you can shut them out completely. I know that shutting people out can be difficult (especially if they are immediate family), but it is also difficult to deal with their insensitivity.
Which would be worse, shutting them out or putting up with them?