At times, silence is helpful
By Carolyn Hax
Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Adapted from recent online discussions.
I'm returning to work after a two-month absence. What was supposed to be maternity leave turned into a nightmare — my son was stillborn and I suffered a number of serious complications from a very difficult delivery. I needed the time away from work to recuperate. Although physically I am doing much better, emotionally I am anything but.
I anticipate that some co-workers, although well-intentioned, may ask awkward and even inappropriate questions about my son's birth and death, and my subsequent healing period. My nerves are raw and the last thing I want to do is discuss what happened with people I hardly know.
No matter how many times I rehearse a polite “Thank you for your concern, but it's too painful to talk about,” I feel like people will no doubt intrude on my space, which will set me off into a crying spell. What advice do you have to pre-empt the questions and conversations I am anticipating?
That's horrible, I'm so sorry. Please ask your supervisor to let people know in advance that you'd rather not have anyone approach you at all.
I doubt you'll be able to avoid all crying spells, so don't waste any dread on that. Tears will come, and you'll deal with them, and people in the office will understand.
In a way, tipping off everyone beforehand will let them know how they can help you, since no doubt that's all they'll want to do — help somehow. I think we all wish we could.
I teach at a small high school and one of my co-workers is VERY nice, constantly thanking people for the everyday things they do. Every day.
Within the thank-you is often a put-down of himself. For example, if he's thanking me for my work with my math class, he will say something like, “Now if I weren't such a crappy math teacher/coach/whatever, maybe our team/my class would do better.”
What should I say here? I think I know what he wants: for me to say, “NO! NO! You're WONDERFUL!” So, should I say that? The eighth time, and the 14th, and the 32nd time get a little old.
— Nice, Kinda
No, please don't offer up fished-for compliments. It doesn't fix what he's trying to fix, and you'll only sound insincere.
It might help you figure out what to say if you keep it firmly in mind that, beyond being a bit of a nuisance, this guy's problem isn't really your problem. Not yours to solve, certainly, be it by giving him the coerced compliments or by trying to get at the deeper insecurity.
One thing you can offer, as a kindness to you both, is a verbal mirror in which to see himself, if he's so inclined. When he puts himself down, respond by pointing out that he'd probably flag it if a student talked down on him- or herself that way, right? So why would he want to model it?
If he persists after you've made this point, then you're free to brush it off with an “I thought we talked about this self-deprecation thing” or “There you go again,” or whatever else denies him traction without being cruel or insincere.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: NHL stuck in stone age
- Aliquippa’s Fields commits to WVU
- Steelers defense’s rapid decline looks similar to that of Steel Curtain’s
- PNC plans to do away with tellers
- Penguins’ Neal apologizes, vows to be better
- Pittsburgh police investigating 2 overnight robberies
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger comes to Haley defense again
- Woodley says he’s fine with move to right side despite numbers
- House Republicans signal support for budget deal
- Groundbreaking held for hotel next to Meadows Racetrack & Casino
- Pirates general manager Huntington is searching for right player, deal