An Incomplete But Still Helpful Guide of Things To Stop Doing (and Some to Do More)

At the risk of sounding bitter (because I am) I’m going to say what everyone else has been thinking.

Please stop asking people questions unless you are fully prepared to gracefully handle any response that you are given. And even if you feel that you personally are prepared to do so, stop asking questions that answering may unnecessarily wound the person who has to answer. Stop offering your unsolicited opinion on things that don’t impact you but do impact the person you’re putting the weight of your judgement upon.

Stop asking people when they’re going to have kids. Stop saying “oh, you’ll change your mind eventually” when they say they won’t.

Stop asking couples that aren’t engaged when they’re going to get married.

Stop saying “oh wow, you’ve lost so much weight!”

Stop using the words “only” or “just” to describe anyone who isn’t as able-bodied or minded as you.

Stop saying “aw, but I thought you two were perfect together!” or “it’s fine, I always hated them anyway” when a couple breaks up.

Stop telling people that they’re wrong for choosing medication as an option for treating a physical or mental illness.

Maybe you’ve been asked these questions or had these statements plopped unceremoniously into your lap as though they’re at all beneficial to your well-being, and you’re nodding vigorously at your screen.

Or maybe you’re shaking your head, prickling at my insinuation that you may need to reconsider your conversational tactics.

It’s not about censorship, or “political correctness”. It’s about empathy, and learning, and the knowledge that just because something has been considered acceptable in the past doesn’t mean that it should have been.

At the very least, it’s about me eventually snapping and screaming like a banshee in public and embarrassing all of us.

sometimes you can see my eyes go unfocused as I completely disconnect from whatever is being said to me

Not everyone you come into contact with shares life experiences with you. And I mean that in more than one way; not everyone you come into contact with has had the same life experiences as you, and not everyone has shared all of their life experiences with you, even if you think they have.

What’s the worst news you’ve ever received? You know how days, weeks, months, years later – the mention of it, or the sight of something that reminds you of it, can still feel like your stomach is being wrenched into your toes?

Now imagine someone bringing up that tragedy, that heartbreak, that gut-punch, in the middle of a casual conversation in the form of a joke or an offhand comment.

You might not know what someone is going through, but that’s all the more reason to stop behaving like you do.

Stop asking why she hasn’t had kids yet. Stop asking her when it’s going to happen. Stop bringing every conversation with that couple back to filling up their new house with children while they’re going over the costs of adoption or IVF, or recovering from a loss. Stop operating under the assumption that the person you’re talking to couldn’t possibly have endometriosis, PCOS, or any other myriad of possible causes for not having biological offspring or simply do not want to have them. Stop acting like it’s their obligation to explain it to you.

I personally will be thrilled to someday be the “cool aunt” type to any child that a friend or relative of mine has. But the idea of being pregnant myself is absolutely horrific to me. Do not try to change my mind – I do not care.

“Okay, I get it,” you’re saying now, maybe coming to terms with the inappropriateness of past discussions, “but I did hate his girlfriend from the start, so I don’t know why I shouldn’t say that once they’ve broken up.”

Because maybe he’s not over her. Because maybe it was just a long few weeks and they’ve still been talking and now that they’re getting back together, your disapproval will hang over his head like a cloud.

Or maybe she was abusive, and he’s still coming to terms with what he went through. And maybe your reminder that you despised her from the first moment you laid eyes on her plays right into that mental manipulation that went with the abuse – the gaslighting that caused him to doubt his own judgement.

Or maybe it’s just a really mean thing to say.

this is what you sound like

The same logic applies to anything that really isn’t your business. No matter the situation, no matter the person – we only ever know as much about a person as they let us know. And maybe your question or remark will glance off them without leaving a mark, but do you really want to be responsible for the blows that land hard? And for what? Do you really need the answers you’re searching for?

I’ve been on antidepressants since 2009. And you would not like the person that I am without them. Because you wouldn’t know her.

So stop preaching about how natural remedies are the only correct ones as though they’re applicable in every situation. Stop telling me I just need to get some sun as though that’s possible from the recesses of my bed. Don’t get me wrong – I’m more than willing to discuss and try alternate methods of treatment, but a) not everyone is, and that’s fine, and b) I’m more comfortable with the opinions of multiple doctors over the course of 10+ years than I am with that of someone with a degree in Facebook statuses and Google searches.

Spoiler alert: your ‘hot take’ is boring.

I could go on. There are so many things that people really need to stop commenting on: eating habits, visible or invisible disabilities or disorders, medical concerns, etc. And I just know that someone reading this (probably recommended by a friend or family member) is scoffing and going “so what am I allowed to talk about?”

First of all, chill.

Secondly of all, there’s still plenty to talk about. I talk to people all the time and (for the most part; I am still learning too) avoid stomping all over their grief or strife with ease. Simple, non-invasive, open-ended questions such as, “how are you doing?”, or “what have you been up to lately?” are still up for grabs. If that is not specific enough for you, it is a great segue into the second half of this (very long) post: Things to Do More.

Compliment people on things they can control – their clothing, their hairstyle, their friendliness.

Say “this made me think of you!”

sometimes it’s weird. sometimes it’s better that way.

Have conversations about hobbies and favorite movies and things that are not so intensely personal that it’s the emotional equivalent of a roundhouse kick to the skull.

Smile at people (with your eyes).

Be unironically excited about things that you love. Share that enthusiasm with those around you.

Share all those unrelated tidbits of information that you think are neat but never have a real reason to talk about.

these are all true to the best of my knowledge

Be open to learning – and to teaching yourself rather than expecting others to do it for you.

Be happy for people when they are happy, and support them when they are sad.

Get comfortable saying, “that’s not really anybody else’s business”, or “let’s change the subject”.

Say the nice thing to the person you don’t know that well. You can preface it with “sorry if this is weird, but -“

Replace all the little searches for gossip with genuine human connection (and that includes online) and your relationships with people you know and people you don’t will be better for it.

Everyone has their own smaller reality within the greater reality we all live in. What you see is so rarely all there is.

So be empathetic, be compassionate, and when all else fails:


4 thoughts on “An Incomplete But Still Helpful Guide of Things To Stop Doing (and Some to Do More)

  1. Great post! Along the lines of “You’ve lost so much weight”, is “you look so SKINNY” because would you really say the opposite and tell someone they look fat?!? Why not mention how healthy they look or ask if they’re feeling good. By the way, Payton, I really like how you bring your thoughts to life. Thanks for sharing with us❣️

  2. Thank you for this PSA. Also, don’t ask a woman if she is pregnant unless she appears to be in active labor and crowning. In which case, call 911 and a towel to catch the baby.

  3. Love this one! So correct on all the above and I will add that you (and your mom) are both queens of “this reminded me of you”

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