Ask Dr. Debra
here for archived articles]
I have a friend who has a lot of bad habits - smoking, drinking and
overeating, to name a few. How can I counsel her to give them up
(without seeming like a hypocrite) when I have a few bad habits of
Ms. Bad Habit
You will only seem like a hypocrite if you and your friend have the
same bad habits. If you don't smoke, drink too much or overeat, then
you're not being a hypocrite. (Although, keep in mind that anyone
can accuse you of anything.)
First, sit down and lovingly explain the behavior you've seen and
its consequences. For example, she eats too much, gains weight, then
calls you crying about being fat and unattractive. Let her know how
her choices affect you - "When you cry about your weight, I feel
bad." Say how much you love her and want her to be happy. Then offer
If you feel her problems are serious, suggest she attend a 12-step
program such as:
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Overeaters Anonymous (OA)
These meetings provide support and information to help people stop
the destructive behavior and learn to replace it with healthy
behavior. Local chapters will be listed in the phone book. Call for
meeting times and places, and be ready to give them to her.
If you do have the same bad habits, then I suggest you try the team
approach. If you both have serious problems, as opposed to "bad
habits," I suggest that you ask her to go with you to a 12-step
meeting. Otherwise, try the following steps:
Talk to her about how much you want to change one (or more) of
your bad habits. Mention that you don't think you can do it
alone. You've already tried and failed. Then ask if she's willing to
team up with you to quit together.
Pick your goals. You and your friend can have the same goals,
or different ones. Be specific about the goal - quitting smoking,
walking a mile every day, following a certain eating plan, only
having one drink when you go out (or at home).
Make a nightly check-in call or e-mail to share how you did that
day. This will make you both accountable for your choices. If
you need to pick up the phone and call for moral support, then do
it. For example: Call before you take a drink. Let your buddy talk
you through the impulse until it goes away or you come up with a
Schedule weekly rewards for achieving your goals. Pick
something pleasurable that you both want to do. For example, you
might pick a movie you both want to see or get a massage.
Remember, it takes time and repetition to instill good habits and
drop the bad ones. Just because you have a slip is no reason to
scrap the whole program. Be patient and persistent. Soon you will
gain positive self-esteem to match your new good habit - an extra
I hope this will lead to a better, healthier life for both of you.
Feel free to
me with your questions.
Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who
specializes in relationships and communication techniques.
To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit
www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular
contributor, or click here to view the
back to the