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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Evidence that we don't always have the right words to say at the right time

The Younger Daughter was reminding me about how, when she's just accidentally burned herself and is hopping up and down in the kitchen, my instant response is 'Careful, that's hot!'  Or when she's just tripped up a step, that's the time I choose to say, 'Watch yourself!'

That's me.  Eager to be helpful.  Caring Parent of the Year.

But it's instinctive, isn't it, to say something completely inadequate in the face of crisis?  It's a strange feature of the way we communicate sympathy.  What about the following situations ...

When someone's fallen over and is lying flat on their face, we say: 'Oh, no, are you okay?'

When someone's just set off down the road to the shops, then lets themselves back in five minutes later, cursing and stomping, we say: 'Did you forget something?'

When we come across someone sobbing their hearts out ....

..... we say things like, 'Is something the matter?'



To their credit, most people don't turn round and say, 'Have you got nothing more useful to contribute in my time of distress?' but they'd be justified.

A short play entitled 'How To Tell Whether You are Suited to Work in the Public Services'

Daytime.  Busy city street.  A passer-by comes across a woman who has just been hit by a bus and is lying on the pavement.

Passer-by   Oh, no!  Are you okay?

Woman       Okay?  Well, apart from the fact that I'm bleeding profusely from a major artery, have a bump on my head the size of the Middle East, and one of my legs is lying in the middle of the road, I'm fine.  I've been better, but I can't complain.

Passer-by  Can I do anything to help?

Woman  Well, that would be very kind, but I'm sure there are others more in need.  If you carry on down the street, I'm certain there'll be some old lady who's dropped her purse, or a dog who's feeling lonely and wants someone to pat it.  Don't you worry about me.  Go where the help's most needed.

Passer-by  Shall I call an ambulance?

Woman   Well, I guess that's one of your options.  Or you could call a plumber, perhaps.  A painter and decorator?  No, look, why don't you give Pizza Hut a bell and order a pepperoni with extra olives to eat while you stand there watching me die?






33 comments:

  1. Funny, but I bet many public servants wouldn't appreciate your sarcasm. Or get it.

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    1. What ARE you trying to say about public servants, Stephen?.....!

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  2. Oooohhh--I want to play the lead when it's produced!!

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    1. Consider that your audition. You have the part.

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  3. This is so true. The other thing that maddens me is that whenever you are injured, someone invariably tells you how lucky you are, because it could have been so much worse. The worse the injury, the greater your good fortune. When I broke my back, I was soooooo lucky, because, you see, I could have been paralysed. The speakers were lucky, too, because they narrowly escaped having their necks wrung

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    1. You are so right. I think they think they're being comforting.
      Frances, thank you for my patriotic teatowel prize! It arrived today and I look forward to using it and singing God Save The Queen while I do.

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  4. Fran, this made me laugh. So true. :)

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    1. Thanks! And thanks for coming to visit the blog. I thought of a 'teacher' version of what Frances (above) is saying. Have you ever had people say to you, 'Well, I know you think being a teacher is hard, but at least you're not a nurse/police officer/ambulance driver'. Oh, thank you, my friend. What a great comfort you are.

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  5. When I bump into people I like to say, "Sorry - did you get in my way?" Always goes down a storm.

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    1. I will look out for you down The Parade and cross over ...

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  6. If I ever hurt myself (by tripping on a toy perhaps?) my family members always laugh! I could be bleeding from the head and their first reaction is to laugh. Not a raucous, belly laugh you understand, but a sort of instant reaction.
    Next time I'm not going to have a sense of humour about it. I will just yell, "What the bloody hell is funny about me banging my head?"

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    1. I just have this horrid feeling you're not going to like their answer ...

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  7. I want to play the woman whose been hit. Fishducky and I would be amazing together on stage.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. You also are booked.

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    2. I can't believe I wrote whose. I'm so embarrassed. I'm so embarrassed I make myself sick. I majored in English. I'm a writer and editor. No one will ever trust me again. And all because of a stupid whose. But thank you for giving me the part in spite of my obvious incompetence.

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    3. No problem. Your welcome.

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    4. And now, thank you for making me smile.

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  8. No , "Ups-a-daisy!" would be much better .
    Or if you insist on the empathetic approach , " That happened to my cousin a few years ago . She's not been the same since ".

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    1. Ha ha! More Job's comforting!

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  9. when my mum died quite unexpectedly, a friend's husband dutifully enquired "oh, what got her in the end then?"
    At the time it seemed a totally inappropriate way of putting something so shocking, but over the years I've come to like the phrase more and more and admire its sincerity and fact that it wasn't just a trotted-out-for-the-occasion platitude!

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    1. I know what you mean, although at the time it probably sounded a bit frank. It's such a problem - you know you don't want to just give a platitude, but you end up doing so because you're nervous about doing so. Dur!

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  10. I think it's an inbuilt mother thing to get their children to learn that they are not wounded for life every time they fall over: "Up you get! I think you'll live!"

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    1. That's what I like to hear: a natural gift for sympathy.

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  11. Reminds me of an incident in the university car park, one frosty morning. A rather large lady slipped and fell, landing on her rear end. I instinctively moved to assist, but before I could ask one of those 'stock' questions, she wailed, "God, I feel so stupid." I should have kept quiet at that point, but instead, I replied, "Oh, I'm sure you're not really stupid." Afterwards, I was looking for a hole in the ground, but she had only caused a shallow indentation.

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    1. Ha ha! That made me laugh. And reminded me of when I was with my son going to see his new college. I tripped on a step and fell down very heavily on one knee. He said, 'Mother! I felt the earth shake!' Always one for compassion, my son.

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  12. This reminds me of my husband's typical response to cries of anguish or crashes of broken glass from the kitchen while he's sitting watching telly in the adjoining room. He calls out, "Do you need me?"

    One is sometimes tempted to say... but no. One wishes to remain married.

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    1. He still shows more compassion than I do when my husband's in the kitchen and I hear a smash. I shout, 'That wasn't my blue and white bowl, was it?' I'm very fond of my blue and white bowl.

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  13. I wound the window down in the car the other day while we were slowly overtaking an accident scene to see if I could help - to be told, " Just move on " by a man who had oviously appointed himself police officer.
    If I hadn't bothered he'd probably have shouted " Fine ! Don't stop...we are fine but don't you worry about it "!!!

    When I was very heavily pregnant with Joe & two weeks overdue a friend's husband saw me in the village & exclaimed, " God ! You're HUGE !!!" Dickhead. ( I never liked him much )

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    1. And you liked him even less after that ! Mind you, I'd already had my first baby and she was two weeks old when someone in the baker's shop asked me when I was due.

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  14. Very funny post! Fantastic play!

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  15. This post made me laugh out loud and of course, your so right! We do all tend to say the most inappropriate and unhelpful things at times.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Technogran.

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