Ask anyone living with illness or pain and they will probably be eager to share what many people have said to them over the years that they didn’t feel was very encouraging. In fact, many will tell you that they were very hurt by something someone said.
It is true, that some people in this world may say something that is intentionally judgmental or negative. Nonetheless, we believe that in many cases, friends and family really do want to be supportive, but simply don’t know how.
Some people choose to ignore the issue or person; some toss out platitudes like simple fix-its and others share what they feel is the right thing to say with an expectation that it will be met with appreciation for their insight. However, loved ones often they find themselves perplexed or even angry when instead of being elated by the comment, their friend or family member is clearly frustrated by what was said. Sadly, these encounters can lead to the breaking down of communication and the relationship as a whole.
The Invisible Disabilities Association Founder and President, Wayne Connell and his wife, Sherri, know all too well how relationships can suffer or even end. Wayne believes that loved ones need to learn what he calls, “The Language of Invisible Disabilities.” People can learn these communication and support skills by learning what to say and what not to say and why.
When they can discover why a certain comment or suggestion is not well received, they can gain a better understanding of their loved one’s perspective. This allows them to ascertain how and why certain comments may cause their loved one to feel misunderstood, judged or as if their situation, losses and perseverance are being minimized. As a result, they can move on to learning what kinds of interchange and assistance gives hope, encouragement and the strength to keep fighting.
All of these things are addressed in IDA’s book, But You LOOK Good! How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain, written by Wayne and Sherri (all proceeds go to IDA).
This book gives practical tips on what to say, what not to say and how to help. It also gives insight into why, we as humans, often respond the way we do to debilitating conditions that are not readily obvious. It shares how we may protect ourselves and try to protect our loved one with denial. And it explains how a loved one may appear as if they do not care, when in fact they do. Yet, they just find it too painful to acknowledge the situation, because they don’t want to see their loved one suffer. These points not only help friends and family, but they also help those living with illness or pain better grasp where their loved one is coming from as well. These are the first steps to restoring relationships.
The video below is from the Online Seminar, What to Say, What Not to Say and How to Help People Living with Illness and Pain with Wayne and Sherri Connell. It was presented during the 2012 National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week (NICIAW), founded by Lisa Copen. Wayne and Sherri were Special Guests for the NICIAW Seminar, Invisible Disabilities and the Husband as Caregiver in 2010 that was also featured in 2011. IDA has been involved in the NICIAW week since it’s inception in 2002.
This article first appeared on the Invisible Disabilities Association Website.
Chronic Illness Tips: 263 ways to more than “just get by.” Available to download for FREE! Tips adapted from IDA’s booklet, But You LOOK Good! into a collaborative project by NICIAW Founder, Lisa Copen.
IDA Founder Guest Speaker for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. IDA Press Release. July 15, 2012.
Invisible Disabilities and the Husband as Caregiver. IDA Founder and President, Wayne Connell. Interviewed by Lisa Copen on BlogTalk Radio. National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week Online Seminar. September 16, 2010. Featured again September 2011. Listen Here
What to Say, What Not to Say and How to Help with Wayne and Sherri Connell. Online Conference Guest Speakers for the National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. Founded by Lisa Copen of Rest Ministries. Video.