“Staring is just one of those unseemly side effects of being human we can't help. However, learning how to react when someone stares at you is important if you want to get through life while remaining as happy as possible,” says Tiffiny Carlson, a C5/C6 quadriplegic.
She gives the following advice to fellow wheelchair users.
Tiffiny says sometimes when people stare at her, she likes to stare right back. ”A typical human response is to look away when someone stares. It can make you feel nervous; no one likes to be stared at, after all. This is why it's staring back is so effective,” she says.
“It teaches them a quick yet profound lesson about the inappropriateness of their actions — in this case, staring at people who use wheelchairs for too long of a time.”
Tiffiny feels like staring back at the person is an appropriate response because it is as if you are giving that person a taste of their own medicine.
Tiffiny says she is okay with someone sneaking a quick glance, but she considers any look for over thirty seconds as someone staring.
Start A Conversation
Tiffiny suggests starting a conversation with someone who is staring at you and use it as a teachable moment.
“If you are the type of person who believes in the good of everyone and that they can become disability-friendly if they have a positive encounter with a wheelchair user, then use this opportunity to teach them a little about life with a disability and why staring is actually really problematic.”
She recommends starting the conversation by saying something like, “I noticed you looking. How are you? I actually have a <insert disability here>” and go from there.
Smile and Wave
Tiffiny states sometimes people do not realize that you have caught them staring at you. She says that by smiling and waving at them mid-stare the gesture could act as an opening to say hi or tease the person to make them aware of their social rudeness.
Tiffiny says one of the easiest things to do when people stare at you is to just ignore them and roll away. By ignoring the person staring, you are not investing any emotional energy.
“The best advice we can give to you is to not allow the actions of people staring at you to make you bitter or have the power to ruin your day. Their eyeballs may roam, and when it happens, assess how to respond and do so in the way that best suits your needs and personality.”
What is your perspective on staring? How do you respond to it? Share your story with us at AbleThrive.com!