How to Talk to People Who Make Bad Health Decisions
It's frustrating when your friend, family member, or, worse, a stranger on the internet—is making bad decisions about their health. Maybe they smoke, or eat nothing healthy, or refuse to vaccinate their kids. Here's how to get through to them:
Why Shaming Doesn't Work
Harsh messages do occasionally work, (for example, my mom guilted my dad into quitting smoking because he was putting my health at risk smoking around me as a baby) but that depends more on the person and situation. But here's the thing: those messages already exist. You're not the first person to suggest that somebody quit smoking or to start exercising. They've heard the message, and it didn't work.
What Does Work
Rather than talking about the damage they're doing to their body, why no highlight the benefits?! "You'll be breathing deeper and with more ease" is more convincing than "your lungs are black."
Think of it as the Doctor Oz approach: sell them on how their life will improve if they make the leap.
For example, someone who quits smoking will immediately begin experiencing benefits: within minutes, their blood pressure drops; within months, their lungs function better.
Eating well and exercising improves markers of heart health as well as psychological factors like self-esteem,even without weight loss.
If you want to help friends or strangers, try focusing on the positives!