In a perfect world, everyone would be caring, compassionate, and understanding of everyone else. Kindness would be thrown like confetti, and we would all get along. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in the real world. While so many people are supportive and well-meaning, others can be downright snarky. Because adoption can be an emotionally charged and often misunderstood subject, it’s likely to draw rude comments from time to time. These statements can catch us completely off guard, knocking the wind right out of us. Even those who have good intentions may not fully understand how adoption works and could say something unintentionally hurtful.

All corners of the adoption triad will deal with these comments from time to time. While you may feel blindsided by them, it can be helpful to have some tips and tricks in your arsenal of responses. As you consider the following options, remember that every situation is different, and how you choose to respond is ultimately up to you in that specific moment.

1. Ignore It and Let It Go

Do you ever have those days when you just can’t deal with the drama? When you don’t feel that it’s worth your time or effort to address a rude comment? That’s okay. If you overhear something that upsets you, but you don’t have the energy to deal with it at the moment, you can choose to ignore it and let it go. Sometimes we have to choose our battles. For our own peace of mind, we can’t respond to every negative remark that is made by the general public. It’s often been said that you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to, and that stands true for these moments as well. However, ignoring rude comments is often easier said than done. When you feel the need to speak up, there are other steps you can take.

2. Consider the Comment, Consider the Source

When people make rude or insensitive comments, their words may come from a place of pain in their own lives. Their feelings may also come from ignorance, miseducation, or a generally poor attitude. Think about the comment that was made. Is the person speaking from their own personal experience? Maybe their experience with adoption hasn’t been a positive one. In cases such as these, the comment likely has less to do with you than it does with their own inner turmoil. Take this into account before responding to the remark. Also, remember that one person’s experience doesn’t dictate the experience you have had or will have. Blanket judgments are rarely fair or correct. If the comment seems to come from a lack of knowledge about the topic of adoption or from someone who is generally rude to everyone, your response may be different as well.

3. Educate and Empower

Misinformation is rampant in our society. People are quick to believe everything they see on television, hear in the media, or read online. Unless a person has firsthand experience with adoption, they may be undereducated or misinformed about the subject. Birth parents, adoptive parents, and those who have been adopted will likely be stereotyped at some point in their lives.

Education is key to combating these stereotypes! If someone speaks from a place of ignorance, it’s okay to respectfully share facts and to educate them on the realities of adoption. Most people are open to learning more about the journey, the process, and the feelings involved. The truth is, some people won’t even realize that the comment they have made was offensive! If you share a bit of truth with them, it may open their minds and hearts as they attempt to understand.

Positive adoption language is a great educational tool as well. Birth parents don’t “give up” their children. They “make an adoption plan” or “place their child” with a loving family. Their decision to do so is selfless, caring, and incredibly difficult. The term “real parents” is another term that needs to be replaced. Because adoptive parents are very much “real” parents, it’s better to use the term “biological/birth parent” when speaking about the parents who placed the child for adoption. There is also no need to distinguish a child as an “adopted son/daughter” when making introductions. They are just a “son” or “daughter,” regardless of how they joined the family. While this may seem like common sense to those with experience in the adoption field, improper terminology is incredibly common among those without that same experience.

4. Smile and Nod—Kill Them With Kindness

Let’s face it. Some people are just plain rude. Maybe they are having a bad day, and you just happened to be in the way when they blew up. Perhaps someone has a personal vendetta against you and was purposely seeking to hurt your feelings. They might be generally disagreeable and ready to argue at the drop of a hat—convinced they are always right. Rather than let these people disturb your peace of mind, take a deep breath, and offer a smile. When someone is rude to you, and you respond with kindness, it throws them off. It’s not the response they were expecting. At times it will render them speechless! When darkness meets light, it doesn’t get darker. It always gets lighter. By being the bigger person and shining your beautiful light, you eclipse a bit of their darkness. They might even realize that they were being a jerk and feel kinda bad about it. Or, they might not. Either way, you win. Don’t continue to accept negative behavior, however. There is a difference between being kind and compassionate and being a doormat.

5. What if I Blow Up?

It happens to everyone from time to time. Someone makes a comment that hits below the belt, and before we know it, we have lashed out at them in anger or with rude comments of our own. We should do our best to think before we speak, but as human beings, we can be quite defensive about our personal beliefs and experiences. The fight or flight response doesn’t occur only in times of perceived physical danger, but in times of emotional danger as well. If you slipped up and had a moment you’re not so proud of, give yourself some grace. Everyone has a breaking point. You may find yourself regretting your response, or you may secretly chuckle if you feel it was a justified response. Consider this a learning experience and ask yourself how you should respond if these comments catch you off guard in the future.

6. Share Your Story

Many of the rude comments about adoption are made by someone who doesn’t realize a triad member is present. A great way to dispel myths and enable understanding is to share your story. If you feel comfortable enough to relay your adoption journey to those who are around, you have a chance to make a difference in their perspectives. By speaking your truth, you are giving others a glimpse into the heart and soul of someone who has experienced adoption firsthand. This will often elicit a response that is not rude at all. Remember to only share your story if you feel you can do so safely and comfortably. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone, but you do deserve to be respected when you choose to share something so personal. Read the room and trust your gut. You will know when sharing is an appropriate option for you. Also, remember that you don’t have to wait for a rude comment to share your story! Your testimony may be the candle that lights the way for others! You never know when your story will inspire another soul that desperately needs it.

7. Explore Your Feelings

When a comment brings unwanted emotions, those feelings may hang around for a while. Whether you have chosen to respond or ignore the comments, it can be helpful to explore the emotions that were evoked. Take a moment to yourself to sort out your thoughts and feelings. Write down exactly what’s on your mind. You can write about why the comment was uncalled for and why you responded the way you did. You may express yourself poetically and turn a difficult moment into something beautiful, heart-wrenching, or meaningful. You may just scribble or journal to get your emotions out onto a page. You can share these feelings with a loved one, keep them in a private notebook, or even crumple them up and throw them in the trash. If you continue to experience negative emotions about your adoption journey or the way others may view it, it is wise to seek counseling to explore your concerns and find helpful coping techniques.

8. A Healthy Support System Is a Valuable Asset

Because every adoption is different, each person will have unique perspectives. Even with these differences, it is helpful to speak to others in similar situations. Groups specifically for birth parents, adoptive parents, and those who were adopted are a wonderful resource for support and understanding. It is imperative to feel understood, and it’s nice to have others to share joys and struggles with. When you face adversity, such as dealing with those unwanted comments, you will have a safe space to vent and be reminded you aren’t the only one who deals with these moments. Ask your adoption agency if they offer support groups. If there isn’t one near you, there are plenty of online groups and forums to explore.

9. The Opinions of Others Don’t Define You

Insensitive comments can be incredibly hurtful. Even unintentional rudeness can feel like a sucker punch to the gut. What if someone says something you just can’t shake off? You may wonder if everyone sees you in the same light. You may even fear there is truth in their comments. It’s normal to feel upset in these moments. Cry if you need to. Get angry. Let yourself feel the emotions instead of blocking them out. Then ask yourself, is there REALLY any truth to these words? Does the person who spoke to them have any idea what they are talking about? What gives them the authority to state opinions as facts?

There will always be those who don’t understand. There will always be those who are just plain mean. There will also be times that people slip up and use the wrong phrasing or say something hurtful on accident. Regardless of the person or the origin of the nasty comments, know that the opinions of others don’t define you. You know your situation better than anyone. You know the love, the pain, the sacrifice, the pride, and the intentions of your soul as it pertains to your adoption journey. As long as you are doing what’s best for yourself and your family, rude comments shouldn’t have any bearing on your self-worth or your sense of well-being.

We can’t please everybody. You do you, and be proud of how far you’ve come and all that you’ve accomplished! If you struggle with your self-confidence or with the role you play in your adoption situation, positive affirmations can be beneficial. Remind yourself daily that you are strong, you are worthy, and you are an amazing human being. Write yourself notes if you need to. Place them where you will see them often. This may seem silly, but your perception of yourself and your situation greatly influences your inner voice. When you have confidence in yourself, you will find it easier to dismiss any rude comments you may encounter.

We live in a world where people have very strong beliefs and viewpoints. While this can be a wonderful thing, it also means that opinions will differ widely, and rude comments will occur from time to time. By accepting this fact and preparing yourself for these encounters, you can deal with these comments much more effectively. Anytime you rise above negativity, or stare adversity in the face and overcome it, you are victorious. With practice and intention, it will become second nature. Don’t let rude comments get you down. Keep shining your light!