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Etiquette question....
blaisepascal
Dear LJ Friends....

My girlfriend currently has a disability caused by a recent illness. It is unknown when she will no longer be disabled, but currently she has difficulty performing routine daily tasks such as putting on coats, opening doors, etc.

She attempts, with some difficulty but much success, to perform such tasks herself, unaided. She is not afraid of asking for assistance when needed. However, sometimes others -- acquaintances, strangers, friends -- will attempt to assist her without asking first if this is OK with her. How should she respond to such undesired aid?

I'm not referring to things which could be regarded as "common courtesies", such as holding open doors, or moving things under their control out of her way. These things one could consider polite behavior regardless of the abilities of the recipient of the kindness. I'm more referring to things like helping her put on her coat, helping her get out of a chair, etc, which one would not normally do for someone able bodied, and certainly not without asking if assistance is wanted.

As she puts it, for a lot of these activities she's "got a system", and the unasked for aid usually doesn't help with her system. How can she -- politely -- express that the aid isn't wanted when the "helper" doesn't even ask before "helping"?

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Maybe a kind, but firm, "No, thanks, I've got it under control for now." OR, start it out with, "Thanks, but..." The reason I add in the "for now" to those statements is that if she does encounter a momentary difficulty and chooses to ask for help, it allows her to save face and not come off as either stubborn or helpless to the person who tried to help in the first place.

Just my thoughts...

~B

I would put it this way:

"I thank you for your kind attempt to help me, given the recent circumstances. However, while there are some tings I can't do, I'd like to be able to do as much as I can."

if the person appears hurt, she can give assurance: "I'm not offended by your attempt to help, I'm just doing as I can for myself first before I ask for help."

It's a sticky situation - but as long as the heart is in a good place, a kind word and a thanks, but no thanks, should suffice.

Yeah, that's a quandry. The simple truth is that these people are being rude. They're being presumptuous and invading her personal space. They probably think they're helping the "poor crippled person" and making themselves
feel all good about how altrustic they're being, but they're wrong, and they're rude.


That said, she probably doesn't want to greet rudeness with more rudeness, but would like a polite but
effective way to inform these people that, while their intentions may be good, their actions are inappropriate
and not appreciated. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to communicate this politely. So I'm no help.


I looked through my Miss Manners books and was surprise not be able to find the answer explicitly stated. She has lots of entries about how people should ask before "helping" and take "No" for an answer. And some suggestions for being helpful without drawing attention to the fact.

But the only thing she says about turning down help is say "No, thank you", repeating as often as necessary.

Re: Unwanted Help

I actually think "No, thank you" is a pretty good response, particularly accompanied by freezing up until the person desists, and repeating "No, thank you" if necessary.

For polite overtones, say it with a smile and add something about having to keep in practice, having it under control for now, etc.

Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity

I disagree that these people are being rude. They are just ignorant of skitten's needs and abilities. I once stood at a state fair, watching a young, very frail woman attempt to get up out of a wheelchair while people shoved past her. She was very determinedly struggling, but couldn't manage with the crowd. Nobody even looked at her. Yes, I did offer a hand, which she accepted, but I offered before I jumped in, although if she had started to topple over or something I wouldn't have bothered to ask.
A smile and saying "Thanks for your help, but I have to be able to do this on my own" should suffice.
Helping someone on with their coat used to be common behavior, although a stranger wouldn't do it, I'll concede.

Re: Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity

I agree with this. A "thank you, but I have it under control. If I need some help I'll let you know" or something simialr. They are not trying to be rude - they are trying to be helpful. I have seen people push past those with disabiltites - both blindness w/ a guide dog - and those in a wheelchair and simply ignore. It is a hard road - but I think if she says just that "thank you, but no I have it" should do.

Speaking as someone who's been in a similar position -

I usually went with "Thanks but I've got it." or "That's okay but I've got to practice/stretch the muscles." That politely acknowledges the intent to help but also gives a reason as to why I needed to do it myself.

When I got stuck, I used a simple "Help?" or "Help? Please?" to request assistance.

If someone got really insistent, I smiled toothily but politely and re-iterated.

the more toothy & tight-voiced I got was usually a good signal to the person that they'd better move.

and when I was in the position of the state fair person, I usually bellowed something along the lines of "Excuse me!" But then I'm theatre-trained and have the attitude and the pipes to be heard 3 blocks away.

I'm also a fink. ;)

Miss Manners agrees with you, that tone of voice and expression is the way to turn up the heat if people are ignoring the polite refusal.

i agree with those who've suggested variations on "no, thanks - i need to practice doing this by myself" as the most effective response. and, as for those who refuse to take no for an answer, i'm sure skitten already knows how to deal with assholes in general...


I think maybe a simple "please thanks for the offer but i am ok" would do.. and if she then has trouble offer her some help

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