If you're dealing with a health issue or you're trying to improve your health, you may have encountered people who make ignorant or insensitive remarks. Or perhaps you've found yourself in a situation where you just couldn't find the right words to say to a friend who was recently diagnosed with a disease, lost a loved one, or is trying to make healthy changes.
To help improve communication and clear up misconceptions, About.com health channel writers have developed our own lists of insensitive, offensive, or just plain silly comments that people say in regards to various health concerns. And, to help us all avoid those insert-foot-in-mouth moments, we've also included suggestions for alternative comments or questions that are more thoughtful.
Below are links to all the articles. Follow these tips — and forward them to friends and family members — so we can all try to think a little bit more before we speak.
- 5 Things Not to Say to Someone With a Drug Addiction: Someone with a drug addiction doesn't want to be told that "it's best to go cold turkey." Here are some other comments that generally cause more harm than good.
- 8 Things Not to Say to Someone Trying to Quit Smoking: Telling a smoker who's trying to quit that she can have "just one cigarette" makes her attempt much more difficult. Here are some other unhelpful comments to avoid, as well as ways to support her efforts.
- What Not to Say to Someone Who Smokes Marijuana: Talking to someone who smokes marijuana about its harmful effects can be an exercise in futility. For example, she probably doesn't want to hear that marijuana can be addictive. Here's advice on how to better communicate with and support someone who smokes pot.
Bones, Joints, and Muscles
- 10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Arthritis: If you know someone with arthritis, you may be tempted to offer some unsolicited advice. Here are some unhelpful and insensitive comments to avoid.
- What Not to Say to Your Physical Therapist: If your physical therapist has a good bedside manner, you may feel like you can say just about anything to him. But there are certain things he doesn’t want to hear. (Hint: Hearing patients refer to a massage treatment as a "rubdown" makes PTs cringe.)
Brain & Nervous System
- What Not to Say to People With Alzheimer's Disease: Quizzing a person with Alzheimer's with questions like, "How old are you?" or "What day is it?" is not at all helpful. Here are some other comments and behaviors to avoid.
- What Not to Say When Someone Tells You They Have Alzheimer's Disease: When someone shares his Alzheimer's diagnosis, he doesn't want to be told what he should be doing. Try to steer clear of these statements, too.
- What Not to Say to Someone With Early Onset Alzheimer's: When someone shares with you that she has early onset Alzheimer's or another kind of young dementia, she certainly doesn't want to hear how you "thought only old people get Alzheimer's." Here are some other comments to avoid, as well as information on how to help her cope.
- Things Not to Say to Someone With Breast Cancer: When a woman shares her breast cancer diagnosis, some people blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, which can be (unintentionally) an insensitive comment. Here are some phrases to avoid, along with suggestions for more thoughtful words.
- 5 Things Not to Say to a Colon Cancer Patient: It's completely understandable that you wouldn't know what to say to a loved one who tells you about a colon cancer diagnosis. Use these suggestions to help choose the right words.
- 10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Lung Cancer: People with lung cancer sometimes hear insensitive remarks from usually well-intentioned friends and family members. Here's advice on how to avoid those types of comments, and words to use that will help someone with cancer feel supported and less alone in her journey.
- 7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Can't Eat Gluten: People who follow a gluten-free diet hear their fair share of ridiculous statements, from being accused of having an eating disorder to getting chided to "cheat a little, it can't hurt." Here are some other phrases to avoid.
- Things You Should Never Say To Someone Who Has IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a complicated and frustrating condition, not only to those who have Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, but also to their family members and friends. To help support someone with IBD, try to avoid these insensitive and irritating comments and questions.
- 10 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Has IBS: If you know someone who has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you may be tempted to poke fun at him, as that's how many people handle discomfort with "bathroom issues." But for someone with IBS, making light of his condition, or saying "it's just stress," is not helpful or appreciated. Here are some other comments you shouldn't say to a person who is dealing with IBS.
- What Not to Say to a Loved One Who Won't Exercise: No matter how hard you try, nagging your loved one is just not going to get him or her to commit to exercise. Here are some more effective ways to communicate the message.
- 7 Things Not to Say About Children and Physical Activity: When you make excuses such as "she's just not into sports" for your child's lack of exercise, she may be getting the wrong idea about physical activity. Here are some other comments to avoid.
- What Not to Say to a Pilates Beginner: The last thing a Pilates beginner needs is to have her fitness plans derailed by misinformation or half-truths about Pilates, even if it's well-intended. Here are some comments about Pilates that could give a beginner the wrong idea.
- What Not to Say to Marathon Runners: Marathon runners seem to speak their own language, and can get upset or annoyed by comments or questions that you consider harmless. Here are some things that marathon runners just don't want to hear, and suggestions for how to talk to the runners in your life.
- 10 Things Not to Say to a Walker: When you see somebody walking, don't assume that he really wants to be running, but is too tired or out-of-shape to do so. And no, he doesn't want a ride. Here are some other things walkers just don't want to hear.
- What Not to Say to Someone Who Does Yoga: Those who practice yoga tend to be relaxed, but that doesn't mean they're so laid back that they won't be offended by these insensitive or ignorant comments about the subject of yoga.
- Funeral Etiquette: 5 Things You Should Never Say: Most people feel uncomfortable at wakes and funerals, and they find themselves struggling to find the appropriate words. Here are five phrases to avoid when speaking to someone who's grieving the death of a loved one.
- 5 Things Not to Say to Someone on a Low Carb Diet: If you're curious about a friend's new low-carb diet, it's fine to ask questions about it. But think carefully before opening your mouth, because there are some comments they could find rude or offensive. Here are 5 phrases that should be off-limits when having a conversation with a follower of Atkins or other low-carb diets.
- 10 Things Not to Say to Someone Who is On a Diet: Someone who is dieting doesn't want to be told that she "doesn't look like she needs to lose weight." Making an insensitive comment to someone who's trying to lose weight can seriously derail her efforts. Here are some tips on how to be more supportive.
- What Not to Say When You're Older: We've all sworn at some point that we won't be like our parents and say things that make those in younger generations just roll their eyes. But as we age, we find ourselves doing exactly that. If you want to try to bridge the communication gap between generations, here are some comments to avoid when you're older.
- 10 Things NOT to Say to Someone With ADHD: Ignorant comments, such as "he's just lazy," can be hurtful and frustrating to a family dealing with ADHD. Read this list so you can better communicate with and support people who have ADHD and their families.
- 10 Infuriating Things NOT to Say to Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder: Someone with bipolar disorder does not want to be told, "But you seem so normal." Here are other insensitive remarks you shouldn't say.
- What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed: Depression is a medical condition that requires treatment, so telling a depressed person to "snap out of it" isn't going to help. Here are some other things to avoid saying to someone who is depressed.
- What Not to Say to Someone With Anorexia or Bulimia: If you know someone who has an eating disorder or is showing symptoms of one, commenting on that person's appearance or weight loss can actually be a trigger. Try to also steer clear of these phrases.
- What Not to Say to Someone With Binge Eating Disorder: If you know someone who is struggling with binge eating disorder, then you likely want to support them. But even well-meaning people can unintentionally say things that can be hurtful, shame-inducing, and possibly triggering. Keep in mind these suggestions of what not to say.
- What Not to Say to a Breastfeeding Mother: The subject of breastfeeding makes some people uncomfortable, so they sometimes make inappropriate and insensitive comments, such as why you're still breastfeeding a child for more than a year. Here are some other comments to avoid.
- 12 Things Not to Say to Someone with Infertility: Someone dealing with infertility does not want to be told that she can "always adopt" or "just do IVF." Here are some other insensitive remarks to avoid, as well as advice on how to support a friend who's dealing with infertility.
- 5 Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone in Labor: If you've never been in labor before, you may not have the faintest idea of the right thing to say to something who's about to give birth. Here are some phrases to avoid, along with tips for helpful comments.
- 10 Things Not to Say to an Overdue Pregnant Woman: Pregnant women who are past their due dates are already uncomfortable, antsy, and frustrated. So they certainly don't want to deal with people (even if they're well-intended) who say ignorant or silly things. Here's advice on what not to say.
- What Not to Say After a Miscarriage: After a miscarriage, a woman certainly does not want to hear, "You can always have another... " Here are some other insensitive remarks that should be avoided.
- What Not to Say to Someone With Morning Sickness: A woman suffering from morning sickness probably doesn't want to hear about how she looks like she lost weight or shouldn't be throwing up since it's not the morning anymore. Here's what else you shouldn't say.