What to Say to Someone Who Has Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can feel isolating, and management can be overwhelming—but knowing others have your back can be reassuring. Offering support for a person with type 2 diabetes is a kind gesture, but not all comments are helpful. People with type 2 diabetes often receive hurtful remarks, blaming them for their condition or listening to others tell scary stories about diabetes complications. Even when well-intentioned, some comments can be more harmful than helpful.

Read on to learn what you should (and shouldn't) say to someone with type 2 diabetes.

Doctor showing older woman how to take measure blood sugar

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Important Things to Know About Diabetes

Of the more than 37 million Americans living with diabetes, approximately 90%—95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually develops after age 45, but rates are rising in children, teens, and young adults.

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, which means the body doesn't effectively use and/or produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is needed to help get glucose (sugar) into cells, where it is used for energy. Without the glucose entering the cells properly, blood sugar becomes high. Left untreated, this can lead to health complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss.

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but it can be managed through a healthful diet, physical activity, other lifestyle changes, and if needed, medication. However, studies have shown that when people with diabetes have social support and the support of family, they are more likely to be successful at managing their condition.

Encourage: I Admire Your Efforts

Start by learning about type 2 diabetes. Reading information from credible sources, such as the American Diabetes Association, will help you better understand what your friend is going through. Offer encouragement. Let them know you see how hard they are trying and the progress they are making.

Avoid blaming your friend for their condition. While some risk factors for developing or progressing type 2 diabetes are considered controllable, that doesn't mean it's easy to do so. They are also factors that contribute to type 2 diabetes that the person can't control, like genetics. Shaming or blaming them is unhelpful and unkind.

Sometimes people with diabetes can develop diabetes burnout, in which they become overwhelmed by the constant effort of managing their condition. This can cause them to stop taking care of themselves. If you notice this in your friend, offer them encouragement and ask what you can do to help. This may entail helping them connect with their diabetes management team and/or helping them get a referral to a counselor.

Support: Do You Want to Take a Walk Together?

Offer solidarity. The lifestyle habits of people with type 2 diabetes adopt to manage their condition are healthy habits for people without diabetes, too.

You can plan, cook, and eat meals together that are diabetes-friendly for them. Physical activity is also important for people with type 2 diabetes (and it's good for you too!) Offer to go for a walk after a meal, join a gym together, sign up for the same sports team, or engage in other fun active past-times together.

If they would like you to, keep them company when they go to their appointments.

Tell Me How You Manage Your Blood Sugar

Knowing your friend's typical daily routine for checking their blood sugar and steps they need to take for managing it can help you plan your time together. Plan to give them time to let them check their blood sugar at or take medication.

You should also learn the signs that your friend's blood sugar has dropped too low, and what to do if that happens. This is especially important because a drop in blood sugar can make your friend feel foggy and not think straight. They may not notice their sugar is low or be able to tell you at the moment how to help them.

Symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) vary by person. Ask your friend what low blood sugar looks like for them. Some general symptoms of low blood sugar to watch for include:

  • Shakiness
  • Sweating, chills, or clamminess
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Irritability, anger, or impatience
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Hunger or nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Stubbornness
  • Sadness

If you notice signs of a blood sugar drop, try to get your friend to take their blood sugar if possible. If their blood sugar is low, offer them something to help raise their blood sugar level, like juice or something else with carbohydrates.

Your friend may have food, drinks, or glucose tablets set aside in case of sugar lows. Knowing this beforehand is helpful so that you can respond in the best way for them, even if they can't walk you through it in the moment.

If your friend does not respond when you try to get them to eat or drink, if they look like they are going to faint or have a seizure, or if you are concerned, call 911 for professional emergency help.

Just Listen

The person with diabetes is the expert on their body and their condition. They may not want to hear suggestions or advice unless they ask for it. Managing diabetes can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. There may be times they don't feel like talking about it. These are boundaries you need to respect. Let them know you are there for them, but don't push or nag.

If they do want to talk, let them. Listen to what they have to say, let them rant if they are frustrated, or boast at an accomplishment, and give them your full attention. Don't judge or be critical. If you aren't sure, ask if they are seeking advice or response, or if they just want to be heard.

I See You For Who You Are

Each person who has diabetes is an individual with their own unique traits both within and outside of the context of type 2 diabetes. Show your friend that you believe their experiences, even if they differ from someone else whom you know has diabetes.

It's also important to remember that diabetes is just one part of your friend. Unless your friend wants to talk about it, it doesn't need to be the focus of every conversation. Talk about other things that are going on in both of your lives, and view your friend as a whole person, not limited to their condition.

Some Reminders When Talking With Someone About Their Type 2 Diabetes

Some things to keep in mind when talking to your friend about their diabetes include:

  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage more conversation
  • Resist the urge to make it about yourself
  • Don't blame, judge, or nag
  • Follow their lead, and back off if they feel uncomfortable or don't want to talk
  • Unless they are in danger, keep their confidentiality
  • Recognize that sometimes your friend may need more help than you are capable of giving, and know when it is time to seek professional care


Being supported is important for people with type 2 diabetes, and can even help them manage their condition more effectively. Not all "help" is helpful. Be thoughtful about what you say and the impact it could have. You can support your friend with type 2 diabetes by learning about their condition, understanding their routines and what to do in an emergency, offering encouragement, joining them in their healthy lifestyle activities, listening attentively when they talk, and recognizing them for the individual they are.

A Word From Verywell

It's natural to want to jump in and help when a friend has a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes, but you need to know what support is needed, and if it is even wanted at all. If you want to be there for your friend with diabetes, ask them what they need, and really listen to them when they tell you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I support someone with diabetes?

    How to support someone with diabetes is best determined by the person you wish to support. Ask them what they need and follow their lead.

    This may look like learning about their condition, coming with them to appointments, joining them for exercising and meals, helping them with their management routine, or even just being there to listen when they need to talk.

  • Where can I find recipe ideas for someone with type 2 diabetes?

    There are lots of free diabetes-friendly recipes available online. Make sure that you are looking at credible sources so that you can trust the accuracy of the nutrition information.

    Some places to start include:

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes.

  2. American Diabetes Association. Newly diagnosed.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Type 2 diabetes.

  4. Nemours KidsHealth. My friend has diabetes. How can I help?

  5. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Friends, family & diabetes.

  6. Diabetes Voice. Family support imperative for people with diabetes.

  7. Diabetes UK. Supporting someone with diabetes.

  8. UNC Health Talk. How to support someone with diabetes.

  9. Diabetes.co.uk. Supporting someone with diabetes.

By Heather Jones
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism.