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The Power of Change

If you have a friend or family member who needs your support in changing a habit or behavior, try one of the following strategies for discussing the situation.

 Explore reasons to change

Get the person to describe the best-case scenario if things change.

  • What is the BEST thing you can imagine that could result from changing?
  • How much better do you think you will feel if you start [insert healthy behavior]?
  • If you change [insert behavior], how can we celebrate six months from now?

 Ask permission to talk

People more likely will discuss changing when asked, rather than when told to change.

  • Can we talk about [insert behavior]?
  • Let’s talk about how your [insert behavior] impacts your …

 Bolster the person’s self-confidence

Confidence helps someone take action and follow through.

  • You’ve been working hard to quit [behavior]. How’s it going?
  • Last week you were not sure you could go one day without drinking. How did you get through the past week without taking a drink?

 Reassure the person

Let the person know that plenty of other people have gone through the same issue. 

  • A lot of people are concerned about changing their [insert behavior].”  
  • That is not unusual. Many people will tell you it’s hard to change that and might take a few tries.
  • A lot of people are concerned about gaining weight when they quit smoking. Let’s start walking around the block after dinner.

Ask open-ended questions

Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no response. Too many back-to-back closed- or dead-end questions can feel like an interrogation (e.g., how often do you get drunk?”). Open-ended questions encourage the other person to do most of the talking.

  • Tell me what you like about [risky/problem behavior].
  • What’s going on at home?
  • What’s on your mind?
  • What happens when you behave that way?
  • How were you able to not use [substance] for [time frame]?
  • Tell me more about when this first began.
  • What’s different for you this time?
  • What was that like for you?

 Praise the person’s commitment to change

Saying something positive makes them more confident they can change.

  • You showed a lot of [insert what best describes the behavior—strength, courage, determination] by doing that.
  • It’s clear that you’re really trying to change your [behavior].
  • With all the obstacles you have right now, it’s [insert what best describes the person’s behavior—impressive, amazing] that you’ve been able to refrain from engaging in [behavior].
  • In spite of what happened last week, coming back today shows that you’re concerned about changing your [behavior].

 Point the person toward helping resources

If the person needs expert help in changing a behavior, Marine Corps Community Services offers various programs that can provide the required assistance. For more information, visit

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