Words have the power to tear down, but also to build up. As we explored in our article, Five Things to Avoid Saying to Someone Who Has a Tremor, there is a plethora of unhelpful comments and questions that can negatively impact interactions with people living with essential tremor (ET); but there are also things you can say that can help.

Just like part 1, “Five Things to Avoid Saying to Someone Who Has a Tremor” the following is not a “one-size-fits-all” list. We encourage people living with essential tremor to add to this list and share it with family, friends and their entire support team. Above all, it is also important to prioritize the following characteristics when speaking to someone with essential tremor or with any disability or chronic condition: humility, encouragement and sincerity. Let’s keep those in mind as we consider each of these expressions of support:

1. “I enjoy spending time with you.”

People with essential tremor can often feel isolated, embarrassed and lonely. If you are worried that the food on your fork might fly across the room or your drink might spill, being around others can be stressful. A sincere comment like this can be a source of encouragement, purpose and hope.

2. “You look nice today.”

You may think it is a small thing, but compliments can be rare when a patient’s tremors tend to overshadow a new haircut, outfit or, pair of shoes. Providing a heartfelt compliment can boost another’s confidence and provide a sense of positivity.

3. “Where can I learn more about tremors?”

In addition to the information available about essential tremor symptoms on the Insightec website, the International Essential Tremor Foundation is a great source of information about essential tremor and the impacts it can have on someone’s life, and it’s considered to be the world’s leading organization for those affected by the condition. There may also be local essential tremor community events you can attend. Of course, reading blogs and a few articles doesn’t make you a medical expert. Patients should continue to consult their medical team for advice and information about their condition, possible essential tremor treatments and new clinical trial results.

4. “How can I best support you?”

This might seem like an obvious or even silly question to ask, but when people are so concerned about saying the wrong thing, they can often be hesitant to offer support. When this question is asked humbly, it provides an opportunity for open dialogue. Of course, your friend or acquaintance might not need anything right now, and that is ok. If that is the response you receive, a good follow-up might be “Okay, would it be helpful if I asked you again in a couple weeks? I want you to know that I’m here for you.” These questions open the door to discuss the potential for current and future assistance, whether it is driving them to book club, helping to prepare a meal, or just a weekly check-in phone call. All of these things can help improve the quality of life for people with essential tremor.

5. Say nothing if appropriate.

If you are interacting with a stranger or acquaintance with tremors, we would encourage you to keep comments or questions to yourself. This is also valid if a friend or family member has asked you to not call attention to their essential tremor. It’s important to respect their perspective and continue to respond with patience and kindness. Some people hide their tremor and do not want help or attention. The International Essential Tremor Foundation is a great resource for learning more about essential tremor on your own time.

Thank you for helping to make the world a better place! Together we can embrace humility, encouragement and sincerity as we continue to educate ourselves on essential tremor and support one another.

Katie Gant, PhD, Medical Science Liaison

More from Katie Gant, PhD, Medical Science Liaison

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