With a friend or family member, the ideal is to be firm, forthright and clear about your concerns and preferably offer the person a practical solution or alternative vision to the current situation. Don't be intimidated and cowed by the defensiveness you encounter, but don't trample on it either. If your impulse to help is sincere, be strong and unapologetic in your stance, but realistic about the limits of your influence. The art is to engage the person without nagging or bullying him/her, or withdrawing completely and giving the "silent treatment." The point is not to give up on the person, but also not to engage in a hostile takeover either.
Keep in mind that if the person's response is based on fear, and the person is not just asserting adult choices, preferences and rights, he/she may lack the confidence or knowledge to climb out of a self-defeating trap. Without seeming to condemn or tell the person what to do, you could offer a potential solution or way out of the dilemma for him/her to consider. It is always the person's choice, of course, to make a change in the behavior in question. More often than people realize, it is a matter of lacking the confidence that change is possible that holds people back. People often won't look squarely at a problem unless they see a workable solution. While it is tough to walk the line between the extremes of intruding where we are unwelcome, or just giving up on someone we care about, if we try to get it right, we may be forgiven our trespasses.
Have you tried to talk to a loved one about smoking? How did he or she react? Share your story below.
Dr. Daniel Seidman is a clinical psychologist and director of the smoking cessation service at Columbia University Medical Center. He is the author of Smoke-Free in 30 Days: The Pain-Free, Permanent Way to Quit—which has a foreword by Dr. Oz. For more details about the book, visit DanielFSeidman.com.
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