Should I try to fix some insensitive behaviour of mine?
posted by anonymous to human relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was speaking to a colleague today who I don't see as often as I used to, maybe once a quarter. I admired her sweater, she mentioned it was from her mother. I asked whether her mother was still at home (knowing that she had had Alzheimer’s for several years now AND not wanting to avoid talking about it because, you know, people do), and it turns out her mother is in care. I think I said, I'm sorry, that must be hard. How's your stepdad taking it? She tells me that he's at home by himself, and doesn't want to go into care, but because he's had a stroke and now has no-one to talk to, he's losing speech abilities. That's rough, I said. Does he get a chance to see your mum? I asked. Once a week, she said, he gets a taxi and spends time with her, and they feed him, and he gets community support in the form of supplied meals. It must be hard, I said, for him, seeing her. Not that it isn't for you, (panic) but he's there watching it happen. (Oh god.) And then she mentioned that they met through an agency 20 years ago, and married, and so on. She did tell me that her mother still recognised her and knew her but that was about it.
Later, we went to coffee with another colleague and didn't mention it again, but it wasn't until 3 hours later, after I left work that I realised how much I minimised what she must be going through.
So, I was an insensitive callous cow, but every time I think of contacting her to say, "hey, colleague, I was such an insensitive callous cow, I'm sorry, I can't imagine how difficult it is for you, and by the way, did I mention, I'm insensitive," it seems like it's about me feeling better, and not about her.
So, if you had a friend/colleague ever be stupid like that, and you think like a woman, would you have preferred that they just shut up and forget it, or made contact. Other issues include that she works in another branch so face-to-face won’t occur for about 3 months, and I guess you can imagine, my primitive social skills might cause a phone call to make it worse, which leaves a letter, card or email, and they all seem wrong.
So what would you do? What's the kindest thing to do?