The Explain Reassure Divert Tool

Managing comments, questions or staring from others can be difficult and feel intrusive. At Changing Faces, we have a simple tool, which some people find helpful to remember, when they find themselves in a difficult situation which arises unexpectedly.

Explain – Reassure – Divert can be used both to prepare a response to another person, as well as provide a basis for keeping any difficult thoughts and feelings under your control.


Explain to the other person: Explain to the other person that you have a visible difference and why – you can say as much or as little as you wish and this might vary depending on your mood or the situation.

For example:

  • ‘I see that you noticed my appearance, I have psoriasis and that’s why my skin looks a bit different.’
  • ‘ These scars are because I was in a car accident when I was 21. I don’t like to talk about it much.’
  • ‘ I have noticed you looking at at my face – I have a condition called…’

Explain to yourself: This is a way of giving yourself an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the situation and qualify your feelings about it.

An example of this may be:

  • ‘This person is not deliberately being hurtful – most of the time, people stare because they are curious.’
  • ‘People often look longer than usual without realising they are doing this.’
  • ‘People might stare or double-take or turn away because they are surprised, uncomfortable or unsure how to act.’
  • ‘People ask questions to try to understand. Even people who make comments may be (badly) trying to find a way to deal with the situation.’
  • ‘I feel this way because this has happened many times before, but it is ok – I can handle this’


Reassure the other person: As you are probably familiar with, sometimes people are worried or confused or feel sorry for you. Providing some reassurance can both educate them and help them understand how you might feel.

For example:

  • ‘I have Treacher Collins, but it doesn’t hurt, I am not in pain, it’s really not a problem for me.’
  • ‘My hair loss is due to alopecia. It’s fine – I’m happy with how I look and actually prefer not to wear a wig.’
  • ‘I lost my fingers in an accident five years ago, but it’s find now. It doesn’t hurt and I’ve adapted to using them in different ways.’

Reassure yourself: It can help to reassure yourself that you are able to manage any difficult situations or feelings or that it is ok

For example:

  • ‘It’s upsetting when someone is unkind about how I look, but I know others don’t feel that way and I am OK’.
  • ‘I don’t need approval about my appearance from others.’
  • ‘Most people are curious and that’s ok, they aren’t trying to be unkind and probably don’t understand how it makes me feel.’
  • ‘I’ve handled situations like this many times before – and I can handle this one.’


Divert the other person: This can be used to divert someone’s attention away from you and your visible difference, or from talking about things that you are not comfortable with. Often this is best as a short acknowledgement and then moving on to another topic. Questions are often useful in this scenario.

For example:

  • ‘That’s my psoriasis. Do you like this place? I think the food here is great.’
  • ‘I’m not that keen on talking about it much. Isn’t the weather great today?’
  • ‘It’s a condition that affects my face. Have you seen that new film…?’
  • ‘Enough about me. How are your family doing?’

Divert yourself: This involves finding other things to focus your mind on in a difficult situation, as a way of keeping control of your thoughts and feelings.

Here are some things to try:

  • Focus on a question or exercise, for example: how many people are wearing glasses in the cafe; how many days until your birthday; who do you still need to buy Christmas presents for?
  • Focus on something, like reading or playing a game on your phone, watching Netflix, listening to music
  • Recite the lyrics of your favourite song or poem
  • Think about the qualities of some of people in your life
  • Practice saying a positive phrase to yourself, ‘I am great at…’ and list the things you are great at
  • Think about everything around you, the smells, the sounds and colours

You can use explain – reassure – distract phrases together, or as stand alone approaches. All the above are examples, but you may find it helpful to prepare some phrases that suit you in advance. So that when a situation arises, you feel ready.

Try some of the other Coping Tools in this section too.

The 3-2-1 Go tool


Handling questions


More people are using Changing Faces services than ever before. We want to be here for everyone affected by with a mark, scar or condition that makes them look different.

We’ve made all our services, factsheets and information free for everyone. It takes time and money to do this, but we think it is really important.

That’s why I hope you’ll understand why we need to ask for your help. If you’ve found our website or services helpful, and your circumstances allow, then please consider donating. Every penny counts and you can give at Thank you.