After cosmetic surgery, many people are nervous about talking to friends and family about the procedure. When bruising or scars are visible, such as with a facelift, the effects of the procedure can be obvious for days or weeks. This sometimes leaves friends and coworkers in the position of suspecting that surgery has been performed. Here are a few tips for handling this sort of situation.

Don’t Be Too Direct

Whenever someone has noticeable bruising, discoloration, or swelling around the face, it’s a safe bet that they’re already aware and self-conscious. That said, a facelift is not the only potential reason for bruising. Car accidents and domestic abuse are just two examples of the many different possibilities. Regardless of which explanation seems most likely, a direct question like “what happened to your face?” is rarely going to make a person feel less exposed. Rather, consider an open-ended question like “how are you feeling?”

Be Careful Around Kids

While most (but not all) adults are capable of being discrete, children are notorious for direct and offensive questions. If you are bringing children to a gathering with family or coworkers, it’s important to prepare them for things that might trigger an inappropriate response. If a distant relative uses a motorized wheelchair, for example, it may be a good idea to coach your ten-year-old child about appropriate behavior. There is also some potential for awkwardness around people who have recently had a facelift. Even when people expect stares or direct questions from youngsters, things can still get out of hand quickly.

Express Your Support

It’s a good idea to take a positive and supportive angle with communication. Even if a person doesn’t feel comfortable talking about their procedure or other life events, it can still be meaningful to express support and build connections of friendship. On a very practical level, they don’t have an obligation to discuss surgery with everyone who is interested, just like you wouldn’t welcome any and all questions about your personal life.

Try an Indirect Complement

If a procedure went well, but your coworker hasn’t made a formal announcement or email blast, you can consider offering a more generalized complement. Something like “You look great! What’s your secret?” leaves them the option to disclose as much or little as they want. It’s important to be genuine and avoid putting the person on the spot. Talking casually in private is a good idea. A cosmetic procedure or facelift comes with a lot less stigma now than it did decades ago, and yet some people can still be very sensitive. It’s important not to risk social or professional connections because of differing expectations around tact.

There are no universal guidelines for social interaction, and your approach will likely depend on the nature of your friendship. Talking about a recent procedure is often a big relief for the patient. They may be equally unsure about when and whether it’s an appropriate conversation to initiate themselves. As with most sensitive subjects, pay attention to the other person’s body language and apparent comfort level.