Managing Thoughtless Comments

If you use a wheelchair or scooter like me, because of spinal muscular atrophy, I am sure you have heard all of the comments. Wow, that looks fun. Wanna race?  Keep it under the speed limit. Usually, I let these comments roll off my back. Chalk it up to someone who is clueless. Sometimes I’ll smile and give a nod.

Not in the mood for an insensitive comment

The other day one of those comments really got under my skin. I was already in a bad mood. It was a cold night and I was out shopping and the comment “Keep it under 100” came from another shopper. It took all of my might to not tell that guy off. I just wasn’t in the mood for the thoughtless comment. I didn’t even acknowledge him and moved on with my night.

A few days later I was reading an article about a father and son. The father was 6’7 and his 18-year-old son was 6’8. They both talked about how they hate hearing the comments regarding their height. Obviously being that tall they both stand out. They both said it makes them self-conscious. I understand that feeling of self-consciousness.

The comments they hear are, “Oh you must be a basketball player.” “Someone must have eaten their vegetables.” “I’m glad I didn’t have to feed you.”  These comments, while they seem like an attempt to strike a conversation or even a weird compliment don’t resonate with the father and son that way. Both men find the remarks insensitive because it makes them feel like a freak of nature.

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Self-conscious because comments point out that I am different

The freak of nature comment resonates with me. I can relate to their feelings. No one wants someone to point out what’s obviously different than most people. That goes for disabled people, really tall people, little people, people who are overweight. The list goes on.

I've made comment like these, too

I can’t say I have never done this to someone else. It’s human nature when we are nervous to try and break the ice. Unfortunately for the person who is different, like me with a disability, it comes across as an inappropriate comment. I’ve made these kinds of comments before. My intention wasn’t to be rude but I found myself blurting out the first thing that came to my mind.

Don't let the comments ruin your day

Like anything else in life there is a learned skill that keeps those comments at bay. I catch myself thinking about saying something that I might find funny or charming. Given a moment to think about it, I remember it’s inappropriate and unnecessary. I think I have gotten better at restraining myself. Instead I will look them in the eye and say hi. Even giving them a smile and saying have a great day is a better approach.

When you hear these inappropriate or triggering comments the majority of the time it’s not meant to be mean or offensive. People tend to blurt out whatever comes to their mind first. Most of the time it’s due to their inability to control their filter. Give them a quick smile or nod. Just don’t let their comments ruin your day. It’s never worth it.

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