We Can Rebuild Her
Better than she was before… Better, Stronger, Happier. A Breast Cancer Journal

I See Dread, People
10 Small Talk Tips for Cringe-Proofing One’s Future

I’ve had more than my fair share of fabulous reactions to my diagnosis. Tonnes of people have been wonderfully real with me — and wonderfully supportive.

These people have turned what could have been pure nightmare into a long-lasting lesson in generosity and friendship.

I am truly grateful.

That being said, OMG, I’ve had some hilariously inappropriate reactions.

I’m far from a guru of social graces, but I just have to chuckle at some people’s obvious dread of interactions with me — and their fumbling attempts to hide that dread.

I know I’ve made big mistakes in the past and I cringe just thinking about them.
So, I’ve compiled the following handy list of Ten Small-Talk Tips for Cringe-proofing One’s Future. And it’s free!**

  • If you don’t know what to say, simply say so — and save us both from whatever you’d blurt out otherwise.
  • If my diagnosis scares you for your own health or that of a loved one, share that fear with someone other than me.
  • If you’re imagining terrifying possibilities for me, keep them to yourself.
  • If you know of survivors and therefore think my situation is a walk in the park, put yourself in my shoes for two seconds before you decide to treat me as such.
  • If you’re afraid I may keel over dead during our conversation, maybe it would be better just to smile, wave hello and keep walking.
  • If you follow my blog because you care, but just not enough to send the occasional comment or email to respond to my story, don’t mention my blog when we meet in person.
  • If you follow my blog out of morbid curiosity, and therefore don’t send the occasional comment or email to respond to my story, don’t mention my blog when we meet in person.
  • If you’d rather not know how I’m doing, don’t ask.
  • If you have no idea what I’m going through, don’t assume otherwise.
  • If you think that not acknowledging my situation is a brilliant social tactic, think again.
  • Bonus Tip #11: When in doubt, try genuine good wishes, a smile and a heartfelt hug.

Or, ignore all of the above — and provide me with hours of comic relief.
I’m happy either way.

** Although I am charging big bucks for the names associated with each tip.

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Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

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Andrea Posted by Andrea March 30, 2010

March 30, 2010 at 6:12 am.

29 comments

  • Mantolovich

    Lol! You are hilarious. :) Looking forward to meeting up at le bucks when you're up for it – only one more left!! :D xoxo

  • Linda W

    Very clever title!!!!!! I laughed at that. (what a movie that was!) right on, this one, and the posting before of Melissa Etheridge really make me think and think and think… re the courage to be oneself. Thanks as well for posting the links for the lectures, hope to follow up later today.

  • steve

    Great tips, A. But shoot, you know me, I can barely remember my own name. When we bump into one another could you please provide a refresher? I'm a quick study, but not for long.

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    I am looking forward to it too. It will be very soon!

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Thanks! I hope you enjoy the audio. August Gold's interview is particularly good.

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    That's assuming you remember who I am…

  • Scarborough Dude

    I absolutely know for sure I'm gonna do at least 3 of the do not dos on your list, and forget a few of the do dos (Doh!) but I also know you're gonna forgive me cuz you have that kinda karma about you and that makes everything a lot easier- thank you in advance, Andrea! (P.S. But I won't forget the hug!)

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Not you, Ken! Do something inappropriate? Never.

    But if, by chance, you do, I absolutely know that I'll forgive you instantly — and that you won't mind me having a great time chuckling at it afterwards.

    Looking forward to seeing you at PAB2010 (did you submit a JOLT proposal? I did!)

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Wow. Seems tip #6 is getting this lonely chemo-cocooned gal some great comment love.
    I should have posted that rule in December!

    Mary, Linda, Steve, Ken: Thanks to each of you for following our journey, for your visits, for your emails and your comments. And most of all for your friendship and good, good vibes. I am so lucky to have scored you as friends.

  • Barbara

    What a fabulous post!! I hope even a few people take note. (and yes, this is my first comment on your blog). Reminded me of the time just before my surgery when I chose to have a glass of wine and was met with “Oh, I guess it's best to drink it while you can” :) Be well.

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Yikes!! That's a quote to remember!

    Thanks so much for stopping in, Barbara. And for taking time to share your thoughts.

    Wishing you many, many more glasses of wine.

  • http://quotesnack.com/ Elizabeth Able

    “If you follow my blog out of morbid curiosity, and therefore don’t send the occasional comment or email to respond to my story, don’t mention my blog when we meet in person.”

    What does it say about me that at first glance I thought you'd written “when we meet in prison” ??

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Ha!

  • http://www.bobgoyetche.com BobGoyetche

    Great post!

    I had to go back and make sure I had commented at least once before, lest I be guilty of #6 :)

    It was awesome to see you last weekend,

  • Isabelle

    Oups…I made one of those mistakes…Holy crap. Sorry about that.

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Absolutely NOT, Isabelle!! You have been a perfect model of marvelous, positive, loving support.

    I guess I should have posted the list of names associated with each chuckle-inducing faux-pas, as there seems to be some confusion.

    Merci merci for your friendship and support. We cannot wait for your visit!

  • Jessica Leader

    I especially like, “If you don't know what to say, simply say so.” It's honest and therefore potentially useful. Thank you for this.

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Thanks for following our journey, Jessica, and for taking time to comment.

    Be well,
    Andrea

  • whitneyhoffman

    For me, I follow to keep up, to see how you're doing, because it feels hard sometimes to do the caring at a distance. Know that we are thinking of you, and keeping up, and try to give comments and feedback when there is something great to say. Sometimes it's hard to know the right thing, and sometimes doing seems more involved than just saying we care and moving on. If you have any ideas for heavy lifting we can do for you, let me know- we'll move any mountains you want us to.

  • http://www.wecanrebuildher.com Andrea

    Absolutely not, Isabelle! You are a perfect model of marvelously positive and nurturing support!
    Maybe I should publish the list of names with each tip afterall!
    Thank you so much for your support, Isabelle. We cannot wait til you visit (when is it, btw?)

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Thanks, Whitney.

    PS. Our interactions don't count as small talk. They're the real thing. And I'm glad.

  • http://redfishcircle.blogspot.com/ Amy

    LOL, I love this post and the title. As a cancer survivor I can relate to each and every line. I have some painful and hilarious memories of people's reactions to my situation. I was always surprised by the fact that some of my closest friends seemed to disappear and people I hardly knew were there standing at the foot of my hospital bed. It took me a while to realize how overwhelmed some of my close friends were – still that is a pretty backwards way of showing someone you care. Needless to say I redefined my friendships after that and now I only have what I call “clean underwear” friends. The friends you can call when you have to stay an extra day in the hospital and you need clean underwear, and they drop their three kids and job and run over and bring you some.

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    “Clean underwear friends”! That's hilarious!

    This whole experience will help our family be better friends to our friends. And that is a great learning.

    Wishing you continued healing, good health and happiness.

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  • Nina

    Just e-mailed you and noticed this link at the bottom of your communication. I suppose my mind is elsewhere to have missed it previously.
    As I read your 10 Small Talk Tips I am thinking back to our brief conversations. I am sure that EVERYONE who reads your blog does the same and prays that they didn't do any of the faux pas mentioned.
    BTW: Your blog is inspiring and awesome. It should be made as oboligatory reading for all.

  • Nina

    Just e-mailed you and noticed this link at the bottom of your communication. I suppose my mind is elsewhere to have missed it previously. rnAs I read your 10 Small Talk Tips I am thinking back to our brief conversations. I am sure that EVERYONE who reads your blog does the same and prays that they didn’t do any of the faux pas mentioned. rnBTW: Your blog is inspiring and awesome. It should be made as oboligatory reading for all.

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