Living with Chronic Pain

Communicating With Loved One’s About Sensitive Medical Topics


When a loved one is dealing with chronic pain or a chronic illness, conversations about sensitive medical topics may need to occur. This can be difficult and uncomfortable; however, it is normally essential. Examples include discussions about sexual or reproductive health, serious or terminal illness, addiction, weight management, mental health, etc.

Tips for open communication about sensitive medical topics

Open communication concerning certain topics helps ensure that everyone involved is of the same opinion and all needs are being met. Five ways to openly communicate about sensitive medical topics include the following:

  • Choose the right time for a conversation. Sensitive topics should only be discussed in a private setting when both individuals are in the frame of mind to have the discussion. For example, having a conversation immediately following an argument or when one person is stressed or tired is likely to be unproductive and cause more harm than good.
  • Ask for permission to discuss the topic. Asking the individual if they are willing to have a conversation about the subject is vital. If they are not willing, respect their decision and let them know that the conversation can occur later, if and when they are ready.
  • Listen with empathy. If the loved one brings up the sensitive topic first, communication can be kept open by actively listening with empathy. Concentrating on what is being said and responding with care and concern makes it easier for others to talk about sensitive topics and other subjects that may need to be discussed later.
  • Avoid making assumptions. During the conversation, avoid assuming what a person is thinking or feeling. Asking them directly is more reputable. Sharing one’s own thoughts and feelings can also encourage someone to open up, which makes conversation easier and more productive.
  • Commit to candor and openness. Committing to honesty and avoiding secrecy is essential. If a fear, frustration, or embarrassing subject is difficult to discuss, communicating openly and honestly about it is better than suppressing it. Hiding thoughts and feelings can cause them to multiply, which results in negative effects on the relationship or the individual’s well-being.
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