The old adage about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar is a perfect example of what is referred to in feminist/social-justice circles as the tone argument. From the perspective of disabled/chronic pain patients being told to be more cheerful or be less angry, this fallacy is certainly apt.
However, I’m actually going to argue in favor of tone, under certain circumstances. Your tone DOES matter when you ask me about my disability. A dialogue that opens with “OMG, WHAT IS THAT THING YOU’VE GOT GOING ON THERE???” is not going to go well. And yes, I’ve been on the receiving end of precisely that conversation starter. That vinegar is not going to get a positive reception.
If, on the other hand, you start a discussion about anything but my disability, things will go much better for both of us. Let’s have a chat about your cute, friendly dog that has stopped to say hello. Your new baby out for a stroll. Hell, I’d even settle for you starting a conversation by discussing the weather. Any of those ice-breakers tell me that you are at least willing to see me as more than just a disability — a thing.
Granted, you may want to ask at some point. And that’s OK. We humans are curious creatures, and goodness knows I am a curious thing. I’m not saying you should not ever bring it up. But show some tact and thoughtfulness about it.
A little honey goes a long way.