For specificity let's say an acquaintance you don't know very well is dealing with a health problem (not terminal or debilitating) that they are undergoing treatment for and that you won't see them for a while. Should you wish them luck with their treatment or ignore it?

The pro of addressing the issue is that doing so shows respect to the person, but on the other hand it may be uncomfortable or saddening to the other party. Ignoring the problem may come off as disrespectful, though.

I understand that such a scenario probably needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis, what I am looking for is a general rule of thumb for making the decision.

  • 2
    Hey Jacob! Welcome! Could you please add some additional details to your question? Specifically, where you are would be helpful as the appropriate action in this case may depend on what country you live in. Also, like most of Stack Exchange, we need questions to be very specific - we're here to answer specific questions about actual problems you're facing. As such, questions that ask for a general answer are often considered too broad for us. Often times, asking a more specific question will still get you a more widely applicable answer.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 21:47

3 Answers 3


I would not use the word luck in this context, because luck implies the possibility of not being lucky (a bad outcome).

Luck in gambling would be a good example, where the majority isn't lucky.

In a medical context, if you say "Good Luck", there is the hidden implication that that person may not be lucky (have some complications or worse). I'm sure you don't mean that.

Better might be:

Get well soon. We will be looking forward to your return.

which is completely positive.


I have faced a number of health problems recently. I am trying to imagine a condition that I wouldn't be constantly aware of, and would be saddened by having someone mention it. I can't think of anything. I am not going to forget I have cancer until you bring it up. But when I needed my gallbladder out, there was a 6 week or so gap until I had it done, and during that time, if someone had said

"good luck with the gallbladder, hope you feel better afterward!"

I would not have been "saddened" by being reminded of it.

Asking a lot of questions, or behaving as though the condition entirely defines the person, is uncomfortable. Bringing the subject up yourself first, because someone else told you, can also be uncomfortable. But a simple

"good luck, I hope it goes great"

when they tell you or as you part, can not be taken badly.


I would opt for something other than luck. The same can be said without that particular word and it sounds too cold maybe? I would instead say something about hoping everything goes very well or along that type of thinking. I would use luck when it's something not serious, like a presentation or a promotion they hope to get. I would send then well wishes when it's more significant, like health for them or their loved ones. Any health issue, even when not appearing to be life threatening, can have complications and anyone undergoing any treatment that requires time off work like has some anxiety about the treatment.

An actual example was I worked with a man having his hips replaced. It's not minor, but certainly not thought to be life threatening. That said, surgery is surgery and I asked him before he left how he was feeling about the impending surgery, and he told me I was the only person that asked how he was feeling and it touched him that I did. I didn't even think it would mean much, but I assumed it would be something that might make you quite nervous. He said it was incredibly anxiety provoking for him but he was hopeful he would recover and live without pain. He did and it was a wonderful change for him. Sometimes just asking is enough.

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