Words have the power to tear down, but also to build up. As we explored in Part 1: Top 5 Things to Never Say to Someone Who Has a Tremor, there is a plethora of unhelpful comments and questions that can negatively impact your interaction with people living with essential tremor (ET); but there are also things you can say that can help.
Just like part 1, the following is not a “one-size-fits-all” list. We encourage people living with ET to add to this list and share it with your family, friends and entire support team. Above all, it is also important to prioritize the following characteristics when speaking to someone with ET or with any chronic condition or disability: humility, encouragement and sincerity. Let’s keep those in mind as we consider each of these expressions of support:
1. “I enjoy spending time with you.”
People with ET can often feel isolated, embarrassed and lonely. If you are worried that the food on your fork might fly across the room or your drink might spill, being around others can be stressful. A sincere comment like this can be a source of encouragement, purpose and hope.
2. “You look nice today.”
You may think it is a small thing, but compliments can be rare when a patient’s tremors tend to overshadow a new haircut, outfit or pair of shoes. Providing a heartfelt compliment can boost another’s confidence and provide a sense of positivity .
3. “Where can I learn more about tremors?”
We compiled a list of the top 5 websites to find more info on essential tremor, including information about the International Essential Tremor Foundation which is considered to be the leading organization in the world for those affected by ET. You can also invite them to an ET community event or ET Facebook Groups. Of course, reading blogs and a few articles doesn’t make you a medical expert. Continue to encourage patients to consult their medical doctor for advice and information about medical conditions and treatments.
4. “How can I support you?”
This might seem like an obvious question to ask, but when people are so concerned about saying the wrong thing, they can often be hesitant to offer support. When this question is asked humbly, it provides an opportunity for open dialogue. Of course, your friend or acquaintance might not need anything right now, and that is ok. A good follow-up might be “Is there anything I can help you with? If not now, please know that I am here for you. Would it be helpful if I asked you again in a couple weeks?” These questions open the door to discuss the potential for current and future assistance, whether it is driving them to book club, helping to prepare a meal, or just a weekly check-in phone call.
5. Say nothing if appropriate.
If you are interacting with a stranger or acquaintance with tremors, we would encourage you to keep any comments or questions to yourself. This is also valid if a friend or family member has asked you to not call attention their ET. It’s important to respect their perspective and continue to respond with patience and kindness. Some people hide their tremor and do not want help or attention.
Thank you for helping to make the world a better place! Together we can embrace humility, encouragement and sincerity as we continue to educate ourselves on ET and support one another.