Posted by: painreliefcoach | January 25, 2008

How To Talk To People Who Are Rude About Your Condition

I have been getting increasing concerns from many of you regarding how to handle skeptical and rude comments from others.  John wrote after an annoying recurrence: “I’m still having headaches with people who see me on a cane one day and walking another and want to know if I was faking.”

 Trying to prepare for a trip, Scott wrote: “There I was in my business suit running around to three different pharmacies trying to fill a prescription for my pain medication.  One pharmacist came right out and told me, ‘You don’t really need this.’  What could I have said to her?”

  Angela contacted me regarding an on-going issue:  “People are constantly saying you don’t look like you are in pain.  I ask them, how does someone in pain look?”

 It’s always amazing that people without pain feel they have the right to judge those with conditions they obviously don’t understand.  It can be a stranger, co-worker, family, friends and even our health care professionals, the doctors, nurses, therapists and pharmacists we seek out for help.

 Pain fluctuates and there are multiple factors that can contribute to a flare-up.  Sometimes we know what they are and sometimes we aren’t sure.   I have found that trying to explain the dynamics of pain, from either a personal story or an objective literature review just doesn’t work.  The attempt becomes too wordy and the skeptics don’t want to listen anyway. 

Trying to defend how you feel weakens your self-esteem. When you are  defensive, you are giving power away to someone who isn’t entitled to having power over you.

 Over the years I have learned a couple of approaches.  If it’s a long term relationship that you care about, ask a respectable advocate to speak with whomever you are having the problem.  I have consulted with many family and other professionals as an objective on-looker giving suggestions and insight.  It often helps, leaving the person with pain to ask me, “Why didn’t they believe me when I said that?”

  For the people who remain skeptical whether or not you have an advocate and for those who aren’t worth your effort, simply respond, “This is common. You just don’t understand.”  Say it as nicely as you can, showing compassion for their ignorance.  If that’s too much to ask of yourself, just do the best that you can.  It’s okay to walk away or insist they fill the prescription or whatever else is appropriate for the situation. Provide more information if the person appears teachable.  If they are not open to becoming more educated, it is not worth your precious energy to try to convert them.

 Reassure yourself that it’s rarely about you. Those people walk around with lots of unresolved baggage and perhaps you caught them at a bad time. It’s possible that they are experiencing some personal crisis themselves and taking it out on you. Or they may simply have abusive personalities.

 Still, you don’t have to tolerate rudeness. If you feel angry or some other emotion that makes it difficult for you to cope with this, make it a priority to identify why it is having this strong effect.  If needed, use a therapist or coach to support you through this process.

 Validate yourself.  Surround yourself with caring, positive people who do understand as much as possible.  Many well meaning people just do not “get it” or they don’t know how to be supportive.  It is very important to advocate and educate others.  For people in the United States, the American Pain Foundation’s Power Over Pain Action Network (POPAN) is a growing grassroots movement to do just that. 

To become involved, click on complete the advocacy survey and then contact your state leader to learn how you can get involved. If your state does not currently have a network leader, consider becoming a leader.  I am.  You will meet interesting people from across the country via the Internet. You will learn factual information and advocacy skills.  It’s empowering to know you can educate if you want to and also be self-confident enough to walk away and not be upset by those who don’t want to be educated.

  Your most important priority is yourself.  Every day do what you need to do to feel your best.  Speak your truth, don’t hold it in, when you choose to.  Walk away with self respect, when you choose to.  Keep it simple, unless the person really has an open mind and wants to learn more.  Listen to your inner judgment and trust yourself to do what is best for you.  Remember you have power.  Do not give that power away.  No matter what, hold your head high.  You have nothing to feel ashamed of or embarrassed about.  Visualize the 70 million people with chronic pain next to you.  You are not alone.


Rebecca Rengo, shows you how to improve your health & decrease your pain. She is giving away FREE pain relief Secrets. To get access to these powerful and practical secrets that can help you transform your life – go to now.

 Rebecca Rengo, MSW, LCSW, is author of Beyond Chronic Pain: A get-well guidebook to soothe the body, mind & spirit. She has been a Pain Relief Coach, Author, Speaker , Psychotherapist and Educator for over 25 years. She has presented internationally and been featured on television and radio and in publications. Rebecca is current president of the Missouri Pain Initiative and on adjunct faculty at Washington University. For more information visit: or



  1. People are rude in general, if they don’t understand what is going on, they tend to act ignorant instead of asking questions, my advice is to completely ignore someone who is rude and doesn’t know the situation. You’ll probably get into an argument and that just makes things worse. Just simply ignore them.

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