I get really uncomfortable when people tell me that they are sick. Not because I am afraid I am going to catch anything but because I don’t know the amount of sympathy I am supposed to show back. Add in the fact that an uncomfortable situation occurs around the discussion of their symptoms and the whole thing ends up sucking.
When it comes to giving sympathy you have to determine the levels. For example if you are talking to someone and they say that they are sick and it is just like a cold or they are just tired you really don’t to make a big production out of things. A simple, “I hope you feel better.” Or even saying something like, “That sucks.” These replies are fine for that moment. Now if they have something worse you have to be much more caring and show a little more sympathy.
In order to determine what is exactly wrong with them you always need to follow up the “I am sick” statement with a question like, “What is wrong?” I hate asking that question, because to a sick person that gives them so much room to bitch and it extends the conversation for five minutes. Plus it opens the door to so many uncomfortable details. Here is a sample conversation I had with someone a few weeks ago.
Them: I’m sick
Me: What’s wrong?
Them: I have just been on the toilet all day, nothing is coming out solid, I feel awful.
Me: Thanks… hope you feel better. (spits up food and throws lunch away)
This situation got me thinking, I want to avoid the entire sick conversation as much as possible going forward in my life. Unless someone has cancer or is dying I don’t want to know about the small issues. I am a big picture type of guy, the flu isn’t any interest to me, if you have something that is going to go away in a couple of days I really don’t need to hear about it.
So I have come up with what I think is a genius idea to prevent me from having these conversations. When someone tells me they are sick I reply with, “So you have HIV huh?”
This does a couple of things:
1) It reduces whatever illness they have to something that is unimportant- Whatever they have is a step down and at that point. When things are put into perspective they feel silly bitching about how they are puking pea soup.
2) It is such a ridiculous question it throws them off- They don’t know what to say and then I can take over the conversation and move it forward past the whole illness thing.
Now the only downside to this is if they do actually have HIV. You are either going to steal their steam or you are going to look like a psychic, unless it is your girlfriend or ex-girlfriend and then you are going to open a can of worms. So there you have it, a way to totally avoid talking about someone’s illness, go out and try it and let me know how it works for you.
Do you see any holes in this theory?