RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: DEALING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY

From their perspective, your loved ones are also struggling with this new situation. They may be uncertain about how to approach you. Should they offer their help? Should they allow you to do what you can? Should they pretend that nothing’s changed? They will need your guidance. You must set the tone and direction for your future interactions. Your messages to others should be clear and concise. You must communicate with them and not expect them to understand simply because they love you. Mixed messages result in misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Asking for Help
It’s difficult to ask for help with tasks that you once were able to do on your own, but you’ll need to do this from time to time. If you learn to ask for help in a way that lets you keep your sense of independence and confidence, you’re much more likely to ask for the help you need, and then your feelings of frustration or anger can be avoided. Learn to ask clearly, and without ambiguity, so that the person you’re asking knows exactly how you’d like to be helped. Consider the following unproductive approaches:
“I’ll just do it myself.” (Martyrdom is overvalued.)
“Can’t you see I’m in pain and can’t do this?” (It does no good to try to induce guilt in someone else.) “Wash the dishes or else.” (People who feel as if they are being punished for your arthritis will sooner or later come to resent your requests for assistance.) “I can do it, but I think it’s about time for you to do something around here.” (Denial has the potential to develop into antagonism.)
Now consider the following requests, messages that preserve self-esteem while constructively conveying the need for assistance:
“Here’s what I need help with. I know I can count on you.” (Describe the task and show appreciation; the response will almost certainly be positive.)
“I’m certain I can do this part alone, but I could really use your help with the rest of it.” (Be specific about your needs, including what you don’t need help with.)
“I’ll clean up the living room if you’ll vacuum the rug.” (Negotiation allows equal input from everyone.)
Remember, your attitude has a far greater effect on your personal interactions than your disabilities do.
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