How Can I Best Respond To Insensitive Questions?

Dr. Mary Jane Massie answers the question: 'How to Field Insensitive Questions?'

ByMary Jane Massie, M.D., Director, Barbara White Fishman Center for Psychological Counseling, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
September 25, 2007, 12:48 PM

— -- Question: How can I best respond to insensitive questions?

Answer: I think most of us aren't insensitive people, and I think most of us aren't trying to make someone who's ill feel uncomfortable when we ask insensitive questions. Insensitive questions I think come from people's anxiety. So, if a woman says to you, how long will you have to wear that wig or, that was the best wig they could do for you -- what she's probably not thinking about so much is your wig. What she's probably thinking about is, my God, how would I manage if I had this illness? Would I be able to be as brave and as strong as you are throughout this whole process? How would I get to work every day? How would I get my children to school every day if I had the kind of burdens that you have? I just encourage women to say, you know, it's tough for other people, too, and although it's not your job to take care of them because you're the one who's sick, just realize that peculiar questions often come from other people's anxiety about themselves and their concern about you.

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