Communicating with Family and Friends

Have you or someone close to you experienced feelings of guilt, anger, frustration or resentment because you or they could not explain the pain experience?  How can you explain your persistent pain condition to someone near or dear?


In this module you will learn:

  • Talking about pain science with family and friends can help build understanding.
  • Problem solve common communication challenges ahead of time.
  • Learn more communication skills to improve your relationships and decrease stress.

Sharing the science; build understanding.

  • First- understand your own chronic pain condition so that you can explain it to friends and family.
  • If you understand pain, you will have an easier time explaining to family and friends the scientific basis of your pain condition.
  • If your loved ones better understand the science- they may better conceptualize what you are experiencing and how it is affecting you.

How to share about your chronic pain condition:

  • Ask people what they would like to learn about your pain.
  • Show them your self-management worksheets, learning modules, and other resources.
  • Involve your loved ones by practicing pain self-management strategies together, for example:
  • Do guided relaxations with a friend or family member.
  • Do gentle exercise with a friend or family member.
  • Take a meditation class with a friend or family member.
  • Write down a short statement explaining your pain condition.
  • Show family and friends YouTube videos about pain science:
  • Read a pain self-management book together, such as:
  • Managing Pain Before It Manages You, 4th Edition, by Margaret A. Caudill
  • Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain, by Sandra M. LeFort and Lisa Webster

Providing your loved ones with the appropriate knowledge base to understand what you experience every day and to know how to assist you in your day-to-day life will be beneficial to everyone involved in this ongoing pain management process.

Key concepts:

  • Talking about pain science with family and friends can help build understanding, and avoid feelings of guilt, frustration, anger, or resentment.
  • Various strategies can be implemented to successfully communicate your pain condition to family and friends.
    • you may have to try on multiple occasions and repeat the information more than once
    • with practice, you will become comfortable talking about your pain condition

Communication Plan

  • In what situations do you notice communication breakdowns tend to occur?

It is normal to have trouble communicating at times. You may be working hard to change your behaviour or use new skills, but the person that you are talking to may not understand.

Scenarios and Action Plans

  • Problem 1: I feel angry, hurt, or upset and just blurt something out.

    What to try: Relaxation and deep breathing, ask for a pause and step away, use coping thoughts like “I can do this”, count to ten before you speak.


  • Problem 2: I ask someone for help, or to change their behaviour, and they say no.

    What to try: Listen to the other person’s reasons, offer to meet them halfway, make a proposal for a compromise, ask for their proposal for a compromise, don’t try to win – focus on working together toward a goal.

  • Problem 3: It’s hard to say no.

    What to try: Set limits by avoiding excuses or apologies, remember what you are saying “yes” to, accept the consequences of saying “no”, and be a “broken record” when it comes to standing your ground.

  • Problem 4: I don’t know how to ask for what I want or need.

    What to try: Learn assertiveness skills (see our communication and pain module for more), challenge your beliefs about yourself (your needs do matter!), reward yourself for taking small steps toward change.


  • Think of other examples of communication problems that you foresee struggling with as you communicate with friends and family.
    • How would you approach these scenarios?
    • What communication strategies would you try?
  • Practicing effective communication strategies can help you reach an outcome that you are happy with.

Key concepts:

  • Communication breakdowns are common in situations when you are experiencing pain or stress.
  • When you are feeling angry, hurt, or upset try relaxing, taking deep breaths, asking for a pause, and counting to ten before speaking to avoid escalating a situation.
  • When someone has refused your request to change their behavior, focus on a compromise in order to reach a common goal.
  • Utilizing assertiveness skills can help you say “no” and to ask for what you want or need when it comes to self-management of your pain condition.

Communication Skills

Like all new skills, it is important to start small and build your knowledge and abilities over time. It is only through positive information sharing and open communication that you will be able to strengthen your relationships with others while still dealing with your chronic pain condition.

Remember: your loved ones do want to help you manage your chronic pain condition but may not understand exactly what you are experiencing. For this reason, effective communication skills are the best strategy for maneuvering situations where you do not feel that your pain condition is being appropriately seen or heard.

Here are more resources:


Continue to learn more:

Communication with Healthcare Providers

Communication Principles

Communication at Work



76 Grenville St. Toronto, ON M5S 1B2 Canada

TAPMI Hub Clinic

Phone: 416-323-6269 Office Fax: 416-323-2666 Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday


Dr. Tania Di Renna, Medical Director Sandra Robinson, Administrative Director