Providing support and promoting respect for everyone with a visible difference

Support line: 0300 012 0275Donate

What to do if people ask questions about how you look

You might sometimes get asked questions about the way you look. This page is here to help you respond to those questions.

Sometimes people with a scar, mark or condition that affects their appearance ( a visible difference) get asked questions about how they look. You may not mind this too much – but sometimes it might get on your nerves or even upset you. There may be times when you don’t feel like answering at all.

This page is here to help you respond to questions about the way you look. We also have pages explaining how to deal with staring as a young person and offer specific tools to help you cope with other people’s reactions.

Being prepared for people’s questions

It can be helpful to think about what you want to say when you’re on your own or with friends or family. This can help you to feel more confident and ready when you are asked a question. Try thinking about these questions:

  • How much do you want to say about your visible difference? You can choose to tell people as much as you want to. You might not want to tell them very much at all, and that’s fine. See our information below on the different ways you could respond.
  • Who are you talking to? You might decide you want to give more information to close friends than to people you have just met.
  • How are you feeling? This might be different on different days. If you feel upset or just don’t feel like talking about your visible difference, you can decide not to answer questions or give very short answers.
  • What is the situation? You might tell someone more if you are sitting quietly talking to one friend. But, if someone asks a question on the bus, you might not want to talk about it at that moment.

It might seem a bit funny to practice responses at first – but if you have them ready and are prepared, this can help you to feel OK about the situation when it happens.

Different ways you could respond

You can decide what to say when someone asks about your appearance – or choose not to reply at all. It’s up to you. Here are some different things you could do:

  • Give them a description. A short explanation will probably be enough for most people, but sometimes you may want to give some extra information. This might be when you know someone a bit better and are happy to tell them more. It’s up to you though, you only need to say more when you feel like it. See our guide on practising your responses, which gives examples of short and long descriptions.
  • Talk about something else. Maybe you don’t feel like talking about the way you look, but you get the feeling the other person is uncomfortable. One way around this can be to briefly mention your appearance and then change the subject. This may help reassure the person you’re with while putting you in charge of the situation. This uses our Explain, Reassure and Distract/Divert (ERD) tool.
  • Say you don’t want to discuss it. You could say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” or “It happened ages ago and I don’t really talk about it anymore.”

Bring up your appearance before the other person asks

It can sometimes be helpful to bring up the subject of your appearance before the other person has had the chance to. This can be particularly useful if you get the feeling the other person is distracted by the way you look. This can help put you in control. It means you can get a difficult conversation over with and move on to a different topic. There are a few ways you can go about it:

  • Briefly mention your condition: You could say something like “It’s a really nice day today. With my condition, I can’t spend too long in the sun.”
  • Be up front about the way people sometimes react: “I’m having a good day at school. Some days are tough because people sometimes say nasty things about my eczema.”

It’s worth remembering that if you take this approach, the other person may think it’s OK to ask more questions. If they do this and you don’t want to have a conversation about your appearance, you could say, “Thanks for asking, I’d rather not talk about it right now.”

If it all feels too much

You don’t have to engage at all. If the other person is asking you lots of questions and it all feels too much, you can take yourself out of the situation. If you’ve told them that you don’t want to talk about your appearance and they carry on asking questions, walking away might be the best thing to do.

You can just leave if you want to – you don’t have to explain yourself. It can be helpful to say something like:

  • “I already said I didn’t want to talk about my appearance and you keep asking questions, so I’m going to leave now.”
  • “I’m not comfortable with all these questions and I need to take myself out of this situation.”

Saying something like this may help give you a sense of closure – a feeling that you’ve brought the conversation to an end. It also lets the other person know that their questions are not acceptable. You can also use some of our other tools to help you manage your feelings and reactions.

A young woman in a black bikini with a scar near her belly button

3-2-1 tool

This is a simple, quick way to get help you deal with unwanted attention.

You might also like