Handling RUDE Comments
When people say rude things to you, what is your reaction? What is your response? Is there a difference between your reaction and your response? For example, what would your reaction be if someone said to you, as they did to OH member Debbiejean, “Wow, you have lost a lot of weight. You look so much better,” how would you feel? Many people would feel angered by such a remark, some people would be hurt, and others would feel sad. Your reactions to a person’s rude comments are your feelings about it.
Your response, on the other hand, is what you do or say in return. For example, Anjie’s response when someone said to her after her weight loss surgery, “You must feel so different” was “Nope! I’m the same person I always was.” That is a healthy response. Anjie simply and honestly answered the person, while at the same time, gently educated the person that bariatric surgery does not alter who you are.
When someone rudely said to IBME, “Your neck looks funny” she said, “Not being able to resist, I shot back, ‘Really? I have a neck?” Where did THAT come from? Humor is often a good way to respond to ignorant comments. You not only entertain yourself, but you also make it clear to the person who made the remark that they committed a verbal faux pas.
When someone exclaimed to Trudylea, “You have lost a TON of weight!” she responded, “Not quite a TON!” Again, humor allowed Trudylea to deal effectively with this person’s remark in a light-hearted way, and hopefully got the message across to the person that their comment was tactless.
Lianne shared an experience she had while Christmas shopping: “I was in the mall with my husband and kids, and an older man walked right into me and said ‘Excuse me chunky lady!’ I was humiliated.” She was too upset to respond at the time.
Humiliation is also what Higurl experienced when her radiologist kept making snide remarks related to her size. “I was totally humiliated.”
Yes, sadly, even those in professional settings, people often make rude, thoughtless comments to patients. “The nurse at my doctor’s office was taking my height and weight and looking up my BMI,” shared Rosemary in Canada. “She realized that she’d written 227 Kg instead of 127 Kg on my chart. Upon noticing her mistake, she laughed and remarked, ‘I don’t want to make it worse than it already is.’”
“When I was a patient in the ICU a doctor asked me, ‘How did you let yourself get so fat?’” shared a Portland, Oregon OH member. She said her initial response was sarcastic. She then said to him, ‘You wouldn’t understand, but it didn’t happen overnight. You gain some weight, then you get depressed you gain some more. You promise yourself that the diet starts tomorrow. And before you know it, you weigh 500 pounds. His reply was, ‘How disgusting.’ At that point I asked him to leave.
This courageous person attempted to educate the physician. She also assertively set boundaries by asking the doctor to leave. Educating people is a good way to respond to rudeness. It empowers you. If the person does not respond in a positive manner, take care of yourself by removing yourself or asking them to leave.
Debbiejean wisely said when she is confronted with a rude comment that she stops and honestly answers their questions noting, “Most of the time people are curious and really do want to know or to understand.”
Although you may be tempted to respond to rude people with sarcasm or an equally rude comment, it is infinitely more powerful to remain calm and say to the person, “When you called me chunky (or told me being fat is my own fault or implied I did not look good before I lost weight), I felt angry (or upset or humiliated) because I am aware of my weight, which is not your concern. I would appreciate your keeping those sorts of negative and hurtful comments to yourself, on behalf of myself and every other overweight person.” Even though you might want to put that rude person “in their place” (wherever you think that may be!), you will make much more of an impact by directly and unapologetically sharing with them how you feel in response to their comment and by letting them know what you need in that situation.
Try it and see what happens! My guess is you will feel proud and empowered and the other person will feel embarrassed and humiliated this time – and you didn’t say anything rude at all!
Connie Stapleton, PhD, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and owner of Mind/Body Health Services in Augusta, Georgia. She is the author of Eat It Up-The Complete Mind/ Body/ Spirit Guide to a Full Life After Weight Loss Surgery.