Oftentimes, one of the most important things when suffering from any kind of condition is the love and support of friends and family. But what if your family doesn’t know how to help? What if your friends aren’t sure what to say? You know rationally that they love and care for you, but you don’t feel supported – is there anything you can do?
The answer is COMMUNICATION. But as usual, it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done, so we have a few tips on how to approach this.
The biggest thing to remember is that nobody can read your mind, just as you can’t read somebody else’s mind.
As individuals, we tend to assume other people think like us and view the world in a similar way, but this is a bias we need to work against. Just as our experiences have shaped us to think in a certain way, someone else’s will give them a different perspective. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes is an active process, and therefore people don’t remember to do it all the time, even our close ones. In addition, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes doesn’t always lead to the correct assumptions.
Maybe your friend wants to make sure you don’t feel self-conscious about your skin condition and picks a more secluded table or restaurant, but you view this as them being ashamed of being seen in public with you. Maybe they didn’t think of it at all and just randomly picked that table. Do you see how the same situation can be interpreted in many different ways?
Here are some pointers on making communication clearer for everyone:
Different people have different needs. Some people want verbal reassurance. Others want physical signs of affection. Some prefer support for something practical around the house. If you don’t tell your loved ones what *you* need, they won’t always guess correctly.
Of course, you shouldn’t feel the need to explain yourself to everyone. Not every person on the street needs to know why you do something, but with your close friends and family, it can help improve communication. This is especially helpful for people who are less willing to open up, as it gives people around you your context to process and adapt to.
Lastly, and perhaps most important to understand, is that you cannot change people. You should be open with what you need and explain why it’s important to you, but this doesn’t mean your friends and family can meet your needs in the way you expect them to. Say you thrive on words of affirmation, but some people find it very out of character and therefore difficult to express their affection this way. Sometimes people cannot meet your needs, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about you.
Remember, nobody can read your mind, just as you cannot read somebody else’s mind. Communicate your wants and needs, so your family and friends can better understand how they can help you. Remember they may not be able to give you exactly what you need, but they will try in their own way.
I have had eczema my whole life - atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema. It is frustrating most of the time but I have been able to manage my flare ups thanks to recommendations from my friends with eczema. I'm here to help others like me get better too!
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