A thing happened this afternoon. I was talking to someone I’ve met in the past few days- she seems a lovely lady, very warm and very friendly. She brought up my plans for the rest of the summer (which involve a lot of hiking), and began to advise me on things she thought it would be handy for me to bring. Homeopathic things. I first replied with a smile and a “oh, sorry, I don’t do homeopathy but thanks!” when she first produced the ‘arnica*’. However, then she passed me over a little kit with twenty or so small bottles of homeopathic pills, including a leaflet all about homeopathy.
Here’s the thing.
My opinions regarding homeopathy mirror Ben Goldacre’s. It’s bunk. It’s been shown time and time again to have no effect whatsoever over placebo. And while I don’t want to deny people their placebos, pushing homeopathic ‘remedies’ instead of real, effective treatments can be incredibly harmful.
However, I don’t want to be rude. I really, really don’t want to be rude to people who are lovely, who are genuine. I don’t want to bring up the above when we’re all having a nice day out- it feels inappropriate and more than a little mean.
But I don’t want to lie. I really, really don’t want to lie to people who are lovely, who are genuine.
And it seems like a “Sorry, I don’t do homeopathy” simply doesn’t work, as it’s assumed that I don’t know about homeopathy if I do this. Which is interesting- it occurs to me that the reactions when I say that I don’t ‘do’ homeopathy are very different to those when I say I don’t ‘do’ religion. With the latter, people seem to be pretty cool about diversity of opinions. The former, though.. more tricky.
So, People Of The Internet, what should I do? I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to lie. Do any of you have any inspired etiquette for me?
*homeopathic arnica. Which probably contains less arnica than, say, the bottle of surgical spirits on the shelf by me. I have no idea of the effectiveness of things which actually contain arnica.
If you find out, I want to know. I tend to end up in the exact same place whether it’s Jesus, homeopathy, or the power of “positive thinking” (somehow my comment that my life is fantastic despite — or possibly because of — my morbid imagination never flies with that crowd). Sometimes if I have the opening I will talk about whatever research is relevant to the topic, but as far as casual one-off conversations go, I usually stay neutral and just try not to reinforce them in a largely futile attempt at behavioural conditioning.
Once you get to the point that someone is trying to persuade you about their beliefs (which can be rude in and of itself), they’ve by necessity opened themselves up to the risk that their beliefs will need to be judged and possibly rejected, and I’m not sure if there’s a polite way around that without concealing the rejection.
I know! I always feel so awkward when the topic comes up. It’s hard to say “I don’t agree with this thing you do” without it being interpreted as “I think you’re ignorant and stupid”. You know?
It’s really not rude to say something like “Thank you for your concern, but I don’t believe that homeopathic remedies are effective, and I’d rather not use them.” If she wants to know why you think so, you can provide her with plenty of reasons. If she gets offended, that’s unfortunate but it won’t be your fault.
Hrm. See, I feel like if I said that it would be opening up a conversation on how terrible homeopathy is. What I’m really looking for is a way out of having that conversation that doesn’t mean lying about my own opinions, you know?
“I find the concept of homeopathy interesting [it is an interesting concept. A quack concept. which is why it is interesting. no lie there] but I have found that it doesn’t work for me [it? what is “it”? the homeopathy or the interesting part? they won’t know which you are talking about. no lie there again] I have tried and testing many forms of medication and I have found the right ones that work for me and with my body and lifestyle” [if you know what works then stick to it and that’s the truth!] if they are a nice person then they will accept this very reasonable and rational explanation. if they probe further then they are simply forcing the can of questions open as to why you don’t agree/use/try homeopathic remedies thus making it perfectly acceptably to go on to explain why. if they push then it is their own fault. otherwise i think the above is perfectly fine and civil answer. if they care that much about the body etc then they can hardly argue with you already having found the right stuff for yourself. That is what I always say anyway and it usually works 🙂
I’m going to have to write that one out on a flash card and memorise it. It’s that good. I especially like the bit about ‘finding the things that work for me and my lifestyle’. If you wanted to argue with that, you’d have to get into evidence 😉
*Also makes note of this reply*
*Saves to draft messages*
I feel like I’m cheating a person of the fullness of my respect for them when I say one thing and think another. But then “Homeopathy is a load of me hole” probably doesn’t sound like respect to them even if I mean it with the utmost respect. What I see in the square brackets above is, to me, a mental reservation. A lie that is claimed not to be a lie because it is unspoken.
I get a lot of people recommending remedies of various sorts (homeopathic and otherwise) for chronic conditions. My response is generally, “I’m not interested, thanks.” If I do have people sometimes go on to champion their remedies of choice after, I repeat myself once, politely, “Like I said, I’m not interested.”
I’ve only had a few people go on to press their case after that, but in those isolated cases, it was pretty clear that the speaker didn’t really care about respecting my boundaries. So in those cases, I didn’t care so much about appearing rude.