We’re all learning.
This post has been written and rewritten so many times. I wanted to make sure it was right as it’s based around what people can say, and our words to each other can trigger emotions as some things are personal to us, so we have to process how we feel.
Very recently I witnessed someone within the limb difference community criticising someone who wasn’t over their word choice about being abled. I personally didn’t see an issue with what was said. It got me annoyed as by criticising particular terminology they ignored the positive affirming message that came from it.
After calming down and having time to think it got me pondering about the words we use and once again I’m challenged. This is a common occurrence as I write this blog! It’s made me feel like we really need to give people a break otherwise we risk creating an environment where the world can’t win when it comes to handling not just differences but situations that are uncomfortable or people aren’t familiar with.
It’s making me think that surely we should be focusing on where what is said is coming from because at the end of the day we are all learning and sometimes when faced with a situation we’re unsure of we don’t really know what to say and sometimes what comes out isn’t quite right. I believe there is a difference between being rude and not being informed.
N.B. People who are very obviously being rude aren’t who I’m talking about in this post.
I know I’ve done it myself, countless times over the years, made comments or used phrases that I thought were reassuring but looking back (having more experience) really weren’t the best things to say. If it wasn’t for my son I wouldn’t know about terms like ‘upper limb difference’, and ‘differently abled’, not to mention all the medical conditions that can cause these physical differences. So surely we can forgive those who don’t use the correct terms when they haven’t had the need to come across them before? Instead of criticising shouldn’t we use this opportunity to discuss nicely about differences to allow for an open and friendly way to inform and create awareness?
Some days are harder than others to be like that, sometimes certain words and phrases bother me, sometimes they don’t, it very much depends on my tiredness levels!! How I’m feeling though doesn’t matter because the response from me should be the same (I hope!!), instead of pointing out their errors I can pause, realise what they are saying is coming from a nice place, and then use it to discuss ability, share stories and walk away knowing everyone is happy and another person has been informed.
It reminds me a little bit of ‘customer service’. We all can understand and appreciate the affect of both good and bad customer service, particularly in specialist shops you may need to go in when you have limit knowledge on what they sell. I happened to go into said shop recently, an independent hardware store. I don’t know anything about DIY beyond Pinterest cheats. The item we went into buy we’ve bought before from larger chains and the job kept going wrong. I risked looking like a fool in front of the shop owner and explained we were having difficulties, instead of mocking us he very nicely gave us some handy tips and tricks. We left happy and informed, we tried his tricks when we got home and they worked. He has created return customers out of us. If we’d walked out the shop feeling like idiots then we wouldn’t want to go back. Therefore, if we make people leave a conversation with us regarding my right hand man feeling like idiots then we have failed to inform and failed to create awareness.
If I don’t want people to simply stop and stare at my right hand man, if I don’t want parents to ‘shh’ their children and move them along, then I need to be open to people not quite wording things right, and be open to them triggering certain emotions which I may instantly need to control in order to make sure I don’t stop someone wanting to ask and learn again. *A little amend, check out this great blog post touching on encouraging people to be open about approaching others!*
We’ve been blessed so far with pretty mild ‘negative’ comments, a majority of people we’ve met who comment are well informed, accepting, no limits, aware of different abilities kind of people. Over the years who knows what we will experience, and who knows what it will be like on days were my right hand man is feeling self conscious and doesn’t want to be ‘on show’. So far we’ve not faced massive challenges, but what I’ve witnessed recently has got me reflecting on how I’d personally like to react during these encounters, and it’s not the route that they picked.
I hope as the months and years go on that I’m strong enough to do that. That I can learn to give people a break, that I don’t nit pick over the exact phrasing and word choice, so I’m not setting everyone who approaches us up to fail and help us all in our learning process. Hopefully that will help my right hand man learn too as it is him and not me who has to live with it all his life where ever he goes, so obviously I would love him to have the tools to be strong and confident in these situations.
Finally I saw this great comment on Instagram the other day that I feel is good to end this post on..