4 Tips for Better Communication

Support from loved ones can be the best gift yet

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When Valentine's Day rolls around, Sue expects to get a cute card and some roses from her boyfriend, Dave. But that isn't what she's really hoping to receive. "What I really want is for him to support me more with my diabetes. Is that too much to ask?"

As a therapist as well as a diabetes educator, I've heard many individuals complain about loved ones who don't support them and their diabetes-related concerns. Is that happening in your relationship? What's wrong?

If you focus exclusively on your partner's response to your diabetes concerns, you are less likely to improve your level of interaction — your behavior also plays a role in how well the two of you communicate.

To engage your loved one more effectively, try the following:

  • Set a time to talk. Make an appointment with each other. Don't bring up a challenging topic while he's engrossed in a televised football game or while she's working out on the elliptical.
  • Use "I" statements. These are sentences that focus on you, not on your partner. Most "I" statements begin with the word "I". Such as "I feel frustrated because I feel I can't turn to you for help." Or "I feel angry when I ask you to do something and you don't do it." "You" statements — those that focus on your partner's behavior — tend to be accusatory: "You always ignore what I say!" or "You never listen to me!"  No one likes to be attacked, which is what "You" statements tend to do. Focus on your own feelings and behaviors to get greater cooperation from your mate.
  • State what you need. Be clear about how you want your loved one to help. Don't just say, "I want you to be more supportive."  Or "I need you to help me more." Be specific. For example, say: "I'd really appreciate it if you could buy sugar-free ice cream for the house and keep the regular ice cream out of the freezer. It is too tempting for me."  
  • Be mindful. Don't think about what you plan to say while your partner speaks. Really listen, then respond. Have good eye contact and face your partner. Few things infuriate as much as having people glance at a phone or tap away on a computer keyboard when they are supposed to be focused on you. When you turn your entire body (face your belly button in that direction) and look into your loved one's eyes, you communicate sincere interest. Then listen, really listen to his or her concerns without judgment.  Another plus: when you act this way, you model the type of attention you would like in return.

Valentine's Day comes once a year, but this type of sincere, open, and supportive communication can happen at any time. So, enjoy your cards and flowers. They are awfully nice to get. But give your relationship the gift of good communication. It can enrich your relationship for many years to come.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: April 01, 2014

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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