Ask Amy: Enjoy the lunch, but hold the private details

Dear Amy: I will be turning 60 this year, and have noticed a sort of trend among many of my friends, acquaintances, and co-workers.

It seems like every time we get together, someone starts to talk about a loved one who is very ill, dying, or has died.

This often sets off a morbid competition of who can come up with the most heartbreaking — and graphic — details.

Obviously, we’re all at an age where we’ve experienced this type of loss. Both my parents and three of my siblings have passed on, but I would never reveal details of their deaths in a casual, mixed-company setting.

If we’re out having drinks before a concert, at a baby shower, or in the lunchroom at work, I’d rather not hear about a beloved aunt’s courageous but losing battle with cancer.

I’m not an unsympathetic person — quite the opposite. But there is a time and place to reveal this sort of personal information.

My question is: How would you handle this tricky social situation without coming across as a callous jerk?

My next question: Am I being a callous jerk?

— Buzz-killed in Boston

Dear Buzz-killed: I don’t know if I would call you a callous jerk, mainly because you got there before me. I exaggerate, but I do believe you sound … intolerant.

Perhaps you remember your own life about three decades ago, when your peers (and possibly you, also) were all talking about pregnancy, childbirth, the terrible twos, or your terrible bosses.

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Yes, back in those days there were probably people who laid on too much graphic detail in recounting their childbirth stories. I’d venture that these might be the same people who offer up too much detail (for you) regarding their loved-ones’ illness or death stories.

However, what your cohorts are doing is not mindless, tactless talk. They are narrating their lives. What you describe as a “morbid competition” might otherwise be seen as “relating.”

You may declare that reporting on, recounting and remembering your loved ones is bad form, but (in my view) this is a matter of opinion. I agree that going on and on in a larger social setting and describing (private) medical details about a perfect stranger is not polite or pro-social behavior.

But — anyone who wants to talk about and/or remember a loved-one is welcome to sit by me (and that includes you).

If someone is engaged in a topic that makes you genuinely uncomfortable, you can gently try to change the subject by saying, “I’m …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Lifestyle


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