When it comes to matters of our own health, some of us have a much easier time addressing our own needs. However, when it comes to the health of those close to us, it can become a much trickier minefield to navigate. Here, we’re going to look at a few tips on how to talk to a loved one when you’re worried about aspects of their health that might be tricky to talk about.
Make it clear you’re there to support
When we’re talking about things as personal as our health, then it’s easy to get defensive, and even hostile. By anticipating that, you can make sure that you frame the topic in a way that is sensitive and understanding of their needs. For instance, when talking to seniors about getting older, you want to make sure that you are not trying to be too authoritative over them, or it can seem like you don’t trust them with any independence or control over their own health.
Don’t assign blame or shame
When it comes to some issues that we have some influence over, such as weight-related health issues, shame and blame are the easiest ways to shut down the conversation. Look beyond fault, be empathetic, and be aware that when it comes to issues that also affect body image, shame may already be part of the picture. Talking to loved ones about their weight or any other lifestyle factor affecting their health should be done with respect.
Be willing to offer solutions
If you’re opening a can of worms, then you had best know how to deal with it, or at least have options. For instance, if you’re talking about addiction, then having resources for local support groups or inpatient rehab services is recommended. You shouldn’t try to pressure or coerce a loved one into treatment, but you can hold the door open for them and show them that help is available if they’re willing to reach out for it. Do remember that you can never get someone to opt in for treatment before they’re ready.
Don’t diagnose or second-guess them
It’s likely that you’re not a doctor who is qualified to diagnose your loved ones and, even if you are, that’s not something any other doctor would recommend. Don’t try to put any labels to health issues that people are suffering, especially when it comes to mental health. If they disagree with you on something that you have perceived, you have to accept that disagreement, while still making your concern clear. Besides talking, you should be listening carefully to what they are telling you about their own health and their own experiences.
It can be hard to predict how a loved one will react to a conversation about their health, especially regarding sensitive areas such as mental health, addiction, or aging. To make sure you do it in the right way, you should consider calling a doctor or related support group ahead of time to get as informed as possible.