How not to say the wrong thing
When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan's colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn't feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague's response? "This isn't just about you." "It's not?" Susan wondered. The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. YEAR IN REVIEW: 10 tips for a better life from The Times' Op-Ed pages in 2013 This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. Draw a circle. Here are the rules. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings. When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Comfort IN, dump OUT. Most of us know this. And don't worry. Susan Silk is a clinical psychologist.
Related: Communication and Writing
• Mental Health/Illness