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Communication Do’s and Don’ts

Jan 28, 2024 | FamiliesStrong Self-Care Info, News, Resources and Reports

How to use positive communication to improve relationships.

Communication is one of the most essential parts of any relationship. And the way in which you communicate with your loved ones can have a huge impact on your shared future. Below are some of our top tips for how to use positive communication to improve your relationships. If you use these tips whenever you are struggling to communicate with your loved one who is using substances, it may help reinforce the message that:

  • You are there to support them
  • You accept them, though you are worried about their behavior
  • You are there to help them and everyone needs help from time to time

By learning how to communicate in a loving and supportive manner, you can strengthen your relationship and reinforce their belief in themselves and their ability to recover.

Timing of Conversations is Important

When anticipating any type of serious conversation, timing is everything:

  • Choose the time and place carefully so that you have the best chance of a productive conversation that will benefit both parties.
  • Don’t expect to have a productive discussion in the heat of an argument. Wait until a time when everyone is calm.
  • Don’t discuss issues with your loved one while they are using, as it’s likely not going to end well for either of you.

Focus on the Positive

It can be so easy to speak your mind when you are upset or frustrated, but you need to be very mindful of your choice of words with a person with substance use issues. Focus on the positive aspects of your relationship. For example, instead of saying, “Oh good, you’re not high,” rephrase your reaction to simply say, “I love spending time with you.” This change of message can help with their recovery by focusing on the positive rather than the negative.

Offer Support, Not Judgment

We never really know what someone else is going through. So, no matter how much you agree or disagree with someone’s actions, make sure you don’t express harsh judgment to[SF2]  them at any time. For example, if you know your loved one is struggling with their mental health, offer them support as opposed to calling them crazy or some other derogatory term—even when you are angry with them. Instead consider saying, “Are you struggling right now? How can I help?”

Be Firm with Your Boundaries

It’s important to state our boundaries with your loved one and to remain consistent and firm with them. This helps them to know what you want and expect from them and that their actions hurt you. It also helps you to protect your own health and wellbeing. Communicate calmly, clearly, and succinctly how their actions make you feel. Consider saying, “I feel like scared when you disappear to get high. I know you need your privacy, but I worry about your wellbeing. What can we do differently so I can check on you?”

Be Kind, Not Accusatory

Your communication should focus on their overall health and path to recovery. They need to know you are there to support them through this difficult time and that you love them regardless of their state. Let them do the talking. Offer them a supportive ear, they’ll be far more likely to open up and share what they are really going through.

More Information

There are many articles based upon studies of how to best communicate with a person with a substance use issue. Here are a few for you to review which may help reinforce the importance of positive communications:

The more often you talk to your loved one in a sensitive and supportive manner, the more likely they’ll be to reach out for help when they are struggling and ready to start the recovery process.

Join Us at Families Strong

Families Strong offers a range of resources to help you use positive communication to improve your relationships. We cover this topic and many others during our group sessions, with advice based on our years of experience assisting the loved ones of substance users.


Families Strong is a free, 8-week support group for the families and friends of individuals who are using substances. It is designed to help reduce the negative effects of substance use issues on families. The program is developed and guided by Mosaic Group, nationally recognized experts in behavioral health. To learn more about the program and how your organization or state agency can partner with Mosaic Group to implement it, contact us at [email protected].

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