Uncomfortable Smile

Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

Is it rude of me to ask a co-worker to clarify why she always smiles when she speaks? It's confusing...especially when the topic is of a serious nature. Like, is she happy something terrible just happened?

My one concern is that her brother has autism and I think she may have some form too. I'm dead serious. I don't want to offend her or come off as insensitive. So is it okay to say something, or not? Thanks.



Dear D,

This reminds me of a Modern Family episode called “The Last Walt.” Claire seems to have this same problem. When the Dunphy’s next door neighbor dies, Claire has to break the news to her young son, and every time she mentions that he is dead, she smiles.

Like Claire, your co-worker probably does not realize that she is doing this, and would want to be told, even if she is autistic. I have a friend who does the same thing. I finally nicely confronted her about it. When you say something that is not funny, and she smiles, ask her if she understood what you are saying. If she says, “yes, why?” Say, “you look like you are smiling. I’m sure you don’t mean to smile.” Or if she tells you something that is sad, then you can say, “I assume you are kidding?” Then she says, “No.” You innocently say, “You must be, because you are smiling while you are saying it.”  If she continues to do this, you can jokingly say, “What I said is sad. I see that you are smiling again. Maybe I should start crying, so you feel bad about smiling.” After this, she will hopefully start being aware of what she is doing.

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