Carolyn Hax: Advice from readers on getting bad news

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On reacting to the news of someone’s cancer diagnosis: When a friend tells you they have cancer, I know you are thinking, “OHMYGOD! HOW DO I MAKE SURE I DON'T GET IT?” It is normal to wonder what caused it and how you can prevent it.

But when you ask, “Do they know what caused it?,” it sounds like, “What did you do wrong?” Instead, ask how it was discovered. That will provide you with useful information if you are worried about yourself, and doesn’t feel so blame-y. And if you or your kid has cancer and someone asks what caused it, the answer is, “Bad luck.”

– Anonymous

On judging others who struggle with something you manage easily: We are all carrying plates. The ideal would be something like this: We have just the right amount of plates we can handle, with just the right things on each plate, they’re all in balance, and we get to put them down often enough, plus we are valued and appreciated for what we are doing, by ourselves and others.

Most people have at least one plate overflowing, though, one that’s full of crap, or too many plates all out of balance, or other people think they’re not carrying enough plates or doing it right. Enjoy balance while it lasts, and give everyone else a break.

– Tight Tiara

I had an easy first child and didn’t understand how others struggled. Then I had Destructo-Boy and realized I had been lucky, that’s all. It had nothing to do with my personality, my style, my organization. It was pure luck.

My brother said it best when he told me he took back all the mean things he thought about my parenting of Destructo-Boy when he had his own little devil. He had been full of smug inner comments about what Big Sis needed to do. Then he learned the hard way. (I thought it was pretty cool of him to tell me this.)

You can’t know a situation until you see it from the inside. Be glad when it’s smooth for you and enjoy your life.

– Anonymous

On dealing with a nitpicker around the house: My husband used to do this … a lot. Recently though, he started making the bed on a regular basis (he is always the last one up), something I really appreciate but had long since given up on.

So I told him how much I appreciated it and asked if there was one of his pet peeves that I could really make an effort to address. So now I clean the lint filter on the dryer after EVERY load.

A little effort can go a long way and we both feel appreciated and loved by the other person’s efforts – no matter how successful.

– M.