4 Communication Tips for People Living With Chronic Conditions

Sun, Jun 14th, 2020

Have you ever tried explaining your condition or symptoms to a friend or family member only to meet blank stares or rolling eyes? There isn’t much we can do about those who refuse to try to understand your circumstances; however, there are a few techniques you can use to bridge the gap between you and those who want to understand and seemingly cannot.

1. Speak plainly.

It can be overwhelming to start talking about your symptoms, but try to avoid being vague. You may think some of your symptoms are embarrassing or gross, but you must be honest, especially with your healthcare provider, or the severity of your condition could get brushed off. If a friend asks you how or in what ways you can be helped, be specific with your answer: “Could you take out the garbage?”

2. Be patient but assertive.

Comprehending the causes and pains associated with your symptoms near the level you feel them can take some time and dedication. It is critical to remain respectful as you describe your symptoms. At the same time, avoid using “you” sentences where your speech may indicate the other person is to blame. Focus on using “I” statements even when the other person has made you angry: “I feel frustrated by my lack of willpower when I smell food I shouldn’t eat. I also feel disrespected when you bring good-smelling food around me that I cannot eat.”

3. Try the spoon theory.

Plain language won’t work for some. For example, if you’re trying to describe your limitations to children, it may be easier to use a basic metaphor with which they can relate, like the spoon theory. Draw comparisons to the other person’s life so he or she can more easily form connections.

4. Understand the other party.

There are many individuals who have not had a lot of life experience and simply do not have the empathetic capacity to see the world from complex viewpoints. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do in these situations to help them understand the details of your condition.

Finally, ask yourself if the person you’re trying to talk with seems to care. This is no doubt one of the hardest truths to face when examining friendships. But having people in your life who do not seem interested in helping you cope with your chronic condition can be toxic to your mental well-being.

Does your friend

  • change the subject when you bring up your condition, symptoms or goals?
    • seem to give you false or empty encouragement?
    • tell you not to worry?
  • give you “solutions” without knowing the intricacies of your illness
  • If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be relying on the wrong person to help you cope with your chronic condition. That’s not to say you cannot have a relationship with this person, but you need to realize that he or she may not have the ability to give the support you want and need
  • For more techniques to communicate about chronic conditions, sign up for a free Chronic Disease Self-Management Course – no insurance required. Many health departments and health centers across Southeast Missouri are starting courses throughout the summer.