What to Say to Someone With Diabetes

Many people with diabetes are living longer, healthier lives than ever before, thanks to the array of treatment options that have become available over the past decade. But it's important to remember that even with the greater flexibility that exists today in controlling symptoms and preventing complications, managing diabetes still requires an ongoing commitment to making smart lifestyle decisions, both now and in the future.

If someone you know is living with diabetes, you can help by knowing what to say and do to help make them feel less alone, says Susan Guzman, PhD, clinical psychologist, and Director of Clinical and Educational Services at the Behavioral Diabetes Institute.

What to Say to Someone With Diabetes

Open the lines of communications and show that you support their efforts with these tips from Guzman:

  • Learn as much as you can about diabetes. This is a great way to show you care and want to understand the type of lifestyle modifications they have to make so you can help them stay on track.

  • Ask the person with diabetes what she needs from you. While you may have some ideas of where you can be most helpful, many people appreciate the chance to express their own unique preferences.

  • Offer to make lifestyle changes along with the person managing diabetes. Actions can speak louder than words. Not only will your commitment to adopt the same resolutions be a motivating factor, Guzman says you may find that a team effort benefits you both in terms of health.

What Not to Say to Someone With Diabetes

While saying and doing the "right" thing can make someone with diabetes feel better, Guzman points out that saying the "wrong" thing can have the opposite effect. For example:

  • Hearing things like, "Should you be eating that?" "You gave this to yourself!" or "What did you do wrong?" can make people with diabetes feel frustrated, angry, isolated, and less likely to make healthy choices, says Guzman.

  • Avoid offering advice or sharing stories you've heard about diabetes too readily, since your good intentions can backfire.

  • "Hearing stories about other people who had diabetes that experienced a bad outcome, like an amputation, is not helpful information to those with diabetes," she points out. "Besides, everybody is different and may have different needs for their diabetes care and what works for them."

Learn More About Diabetes

To better understand the emotional piece that accompanies a diabetes diagnosis, or to learn more strategies you can implement to support a family member or friend with diabetes, Guzman suggests checking out the "Diabetes Etiquette for Those who Don't have Diabetes" card available on Behavioral Diabetes Institute's website. You can also visit American Diabetes Association to learn more about diabetes.

Susan Guzman, PhD, reviewed this article.