Talking To Addicts

It’s no secret communication is tricky under the best of circumstances. Add an addiction to the equation and it can begin to feel impossible.

One of the most important ingredients in good communication is to know your audience. Understand who you are talking to and what the limitations are, then tailor your conversation to accommodate that person. Otherwise, your message falls on deaf ears and everyone loses. You are mad they didn’t ‘hear’ you, and they are mad you keep nagging.

One fairly easy rule of thumb is a basic difference between men and women. Women use way more words than men in any given day or conversation. Women are  more descriptive and explanatory. Men like to keep it short and sweet. They use shorter sentences and  more direct language so the message is communicated quickly and easily. If you need to communicate with a man try to narrow down your message, don’t drag it out, and be direct. When communicating with a woman, be patient and respectful that we like a bit more time and words.

It’s important to remember that an underlying current of addiction is shame and guilt. This leads to us being defensive and sensitive and not wanting to talk about stuff. If I am walking around all day feeling awful about who I am and the things I do and the disappointment and pain my addiction brings, the last thing I want is for someone to start pointing it out and wanting to talk about it.

I am a huge proponent of non-blaming/non-shaming language when communicating with anyone. And there is nowhere this rule is more important than with addicted people. What I mean by this is, be careful how you word things. Instead of saying “You’re lying”, say “I’m having a hard time believing that”.   This takes away all blame. It’s the same message, but we aren’t pointing fingers and placing blame.

Having a neutral stance in an already challenging conversation will help keep everyone’s defenses down. You want the person to stay in the conversation with you, and if you come out the gate blaming and pointing fingers you will lose us every time. We already feel horrible on the inside, we aren’t going to stand around and feel worse.

Another great detail to remember is addicted spend a lot of time running away from feelings. So if you come with a lot of emotional pleas and emotions in general you are more apt to lose the addict. I think one of my greatest keys to success is remaining logical and neutral. I am not going to approach an addicted person with the fears I experience in worrying about them on a daily basis because that is overwhelming and the addict does not have a solution for you. If I can’t offer you a solution or console you and make you feel better, then I feel worse about the whole situation. However, if the approach is basic, logical, and factual, then the we don’t have to worry about and dodge feelings.

There are a lot of great tips on how to talk to addicted people without making them feel worse and them shutting down and leaving the conversation all together. These are just a couple of starters. With a little practice it gets much easier and conversations go farther.  Of course, you are always welcome to email me at [email protected] or call 866.361.5764 for more information.


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