After dealing with food allergies for nearly three decades, I’ve communicated my condition to a wide variety of people and have fine-tuned how I approach the subject with others. At the end of the day, you want to be taken seriously and typically get assurances – such as a safe meal, school policy or a worry-free night with a babysitter in charge.
When having these conversations, and making requests, I generally follow these five tips that help in effective communication and dialogue with others.
- Know your Audience: Are they well-versed in allergy? Are they nervous or over-confident about allergies? Use your best judgment on their level of understanding and their willingness to help.
- Adjust your Tone Accordingly: Depending on your audience, choose a tone that you feel is appropriate. Sometimes a hard-line approach explaining severity is needed for an over-confident waiter, sometimes using humor works when at a dinner party with friends.
- Discover, Don’t Dictate: Everyone knows someone with an allergy and have probably been in situations handling them before. Find out what they know/what they typically do in these situations. If inadequate to you, suggest that you would be more comfortable with an extra precaution. Giving them a voice to start with, makes them an empowered part of the conversation and solution.
- Work with Them, not Against Them: If you feel the situation is hopeless, don’t give up, but don’t burn your bridges. Sometimes the subject of allergies and accommodations may be very new to people, and no obvious solution comes to mind. Offer to help come up with answers, as you likely won’t be the last person they encounter in the same situation.
- Say Thanks: So simple, but so often overlooked. If you have a good conversation and they try hard to understand your needs, thank them for their effort and let them know your appreciation. You have just made that person much more allergy aware and showing your gratitude helps reinforce their new action/attitude. You are changing the world for the better!
Originally blogged at Itchy Little World.