Person barraged and exhausted by diabetes police talking in their face.

Establish a Safe Word When Asking for Diabetes Support

Asking for support isn’t always easy. Plus, dealing with the diabetes police is exhausting and frustrating. Have you ever wanted to ask for support from a loved one but had concerns that they would take it too far and turn into the diabetes police? If so, you are not alone.

Why the hesitation when asking for support?

If you are unaware, the diabetes police are people who judge and make comments about your self-care and diabetes management behaviors. Common phrases from the diabetes police are “Don’t eat that!” and “Did you check your blood sugar?” They are almost always coming from a genuinely good place and have the best of intentions. However, this constant feeling of judgment and the way these statements are delivered, tend to have the reverse effect resulting in resentment and often doing the opposite of their suggestions. This creates frustration on both sides.

Effective ways of asking for support:

To best navigate this support-seeking request and avoid the diabetes police, here are some tips:

Be open and honest

Having an open and honest conversation is absolutely key. Take the time to actually sit down and talk, that will let your support person know that you are intentional about the request and have put thought into it. This also helps them to feel good knowing that you trust and care about them enough to come to them with your request.

Be specific

Be as specific as possible about what it is that you would like their support addressing. It may be a broad topic like “improving eating habits” but narrow down the areas where you expect them to help, such as reducing sweets, eating out less, cooking more, etc.

Verbalize your concern

In your discussion with this person, make sure you verbalize your concern about them coming off as judgemental and nagging when you make this request. Explain to them the concept of the diabetes police, that it happens often and, especially for those closest to a person with diabetes, it’s easy to do without recognizing it.

Establish a safe word

A fun way to make this interesting is to set up a “safe word.” This means that, whenever that person intends to offer assistance in the area you requested, they say this safe word instead of a statement like, “Should you be eating that!?”

Why the safe word works

Using this is a really powerful tool because it helps you to have a full conversation using only one word. And, by doing so, it helps that person to avoid saying things in a way that feels judgemental, or as if they are nagging you. Should you wish to open up further communication, it is up to you. However, part of the safe word ground rules is that the one word represents the support you requested from your support person and nothing further, at least at that moment.

Use the safe word both ways

This safe word tool can be used in the reverse as well. As we previously identified, support people often don’t realize how they are coming off or when they say things in an unsupportive way. So using the safe word when you are feeling that way tells your support person “I hear you and appreciate you being supportive right now, and no further comment is needed.” You may or may not decide to continue what you were doing but at least that word helps you to think “Am I being intentional about this choice/behavior?”

Keep it light and fun

Using a safe word is especially helpful to use in public situations, and appears like a fun inside joke. And it is actually an inside conversation. That’s why I like to encourage choosing a safe word that is fun or unique to you. Using a more lighthearted word helps to keep the tone light when feelings could otherwise become more defensive.

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