If you have a friend or family member who needs your support in changing a habit or behavior, try one of the following strategies for discussing the situation.
Explore reasons to change
Get the person to describe the best-case scenario if things change.
- What is the BEST thing you can imagine that could result from changing?
- How much better do you think you will feel if you start [insert healthy behavior]?
- If you change [insert behavior], how can we celebrate six months from now?
Ask permission to talk
People more likely will discuss changing when asked, rather than when told to change.
- Can we talk about [insert behavior]?
- Let’s talk about how your [insert behavior] impacts your …
Bolster the person’s self-confidence
Confidence helps someone take action and follow through.
- You’ve been working hard to quit [behavior]. How’s it going?
- Last week you were not sure you could go one day without drinking. How did you get through the past week without taking a drink?
Reassure the person
Let the person know that plenty of other people have gone through the same issue.
- A lot of people are concerned about changing their [insert behavior].”
- That is not unusual. Many people will tell you it’s hard to change that and might take a few tries.
- A lot of people are concerned about gaining weight when they quit smoking. Let’s start walking around the block after dinner.
Ask open-ended questions
Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no response. Too many back-to-back closed- or dead-end questions can feel like an interrogation (e.g., how often do you get drunk?”). Open-ended questions encourage the other person to do most of the talking.
- Tell me what you like about [risky/problem behavior].
- What’s going on at home?
- What’s on your mind?
- What happens when you behave that way?
- How were you able to not use [substance] for [time frame]?
- Tell me more about when this first began.
- What’s different for you this time?
- What was that like for you?
Praise the person’s commitment to change
Saying something positive makes them more confident they can change.
- You showed a lot of [insert what best describes the behavior—strength, courage, determination] by doing that.
- It’s clear that you’re really trying to change your [behavior].
- With all the obstacles you have right now, it’s [insert what best describes the person’s behavior—impressive, amazing] that you’ve been able to refrain from engaging in [behavior].
- In spite of what happened last week, coming back today shows that you’re concerned about changing your [behavior].
Point the person toward helping resources
If the person needs expert help in changing a behavior, Marine Corps Community Services offers various programs that can provide the required assistance. For more information, visit https://usmc-mccs.org/help/.