Within each set of parentheses below, choose one option.
“I was sorry to hear about (your/your wife’s/your husband’s/your child’s/your father’s/your mother’s) medical situation.
“(Addiction/Allergies/Anxiety/Autism/Cancer/Chronic back pain/Constipation/Depression/Erectile dysfunction/Grief/Lice/Lyme Disease/Struggles with weight loss) can be so unpleasant and difficult to deal with.
“I know how you feel. (I/my wife/my husband/my mother/my father/my brother/my sister/my child/my friend/my wife’s friend/my wife’s friend’s husband) had the same problem.
“We found that (chiropractic/intermittent fasting/megadoses of vitamins/chicken soup/eight glasses of water a day/massage/physical therapy/avoiding vaccines/vaginal steaming/squatty potty/leeches/yoga/hiking up Mount Everest) made all the difference.
“You should really give it a try. Would you like me to put you in touch with my practitioner?”
What did you come up with? For example . . .
“I was sorry to hear about your medical situation. Chronic back pain can be so unpleasant and difficult to deal with. I know how you feel. My husband had the same problem. We found that chiropractic made all the difference. You really should give it a try.”
“I was sorry to hear about your mother’s medical condition. Cancer can be so unpleasant and difficult to deal with with. I know how you feel. My wife’s friend had the same problem. We found that megadoses of vitamins made all the difference. You really should give it a try.”
Do you ever say stuff like this? Please stop.
Why you should shut up
It’s natural, if you or a friend has made progress on a chronic medical problem, to want to share what you found. But consider a few things.
If someone wanted advice, they’d ask for advice. If they’re just complaining, that’s not asking for advice.
People with a chronic problem have already investigated solutions. They’re not casting around looking for advice from amateurs. (In the unusual situation that they are, they’ll actually say so.)
Chronic problems are not uniform. Everyone’s weight loss challenge is different. Everyone’s cancer is different. Even everyone’s Lyme Disease is different. What worked for your neighbor’s aunt is not likely to work for the person you just found out has the “same” problem.
You don’t know how they feel. They are not the same person as you. Their situation and yours are not the same.
If they really wanted to try untested crap treatments that haven’t been evaluated in controlled clinical trials, they’d be looking on the internet, not complaining to you. Your trial group of one isn’t actually relevant.
They’re already in pain. You’re making it worse. Your need to share what you learned is not more important than their need to fend off your advice, given their already heavy psychic load.
So what should I say?
I’m so sorry to hear that. That sounds terrible. Is there any way I can help?
Then just listen.
Listening is harder than talking, especially when you have “the answer.” But in the end, it’s probably worth more.