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When Dialogue And Negotiation Doesn't Work

Close up of a woman's hand as she writes a letter

This could mean that the first boundary to ask for is that there is to be dialogue and negotiation.

If your attempts to achieve negotiation have not worked you may then have to impose it.

This can be done verbally and/or in writing, e.g.

‘I notice that whenever I try to discuss your drug using in the house you seem unwilling to talk about it. I tried to talk to you twice last week and you said “later Mum” but it still hasn’t happened. I cannot stop you using drugs even though I don’t like it and am fearful of about what might happen. I am worried that something illegal is happening in our house but am particularly concerned that you do it even when your young brother and sister are here. I assume now that you are unwilling to cooperate with me on this and therefore as a consequence I am not going to buy food or cook meals for you. Further, I have said that if there is one more instance of your siblings seeing you use I will have to ask you to leave. I regret it has come to this and would prefer it if we could now have an open discussion about your drug use and the impact on the family/whānau. I love you and will continue to no matter what and I will continue to have contact with you!’

You will note that this letter:

  • Addresses their behaviour rather than attacks them as a person

  • Gives the impact of the broken boundary

  • Uses ‘I’ statements and not ‘you’ statements

  • Asks for the boundary to be respected

  • Is honest, open, direct and assertive

  • Is not aggressive

  • Is balanced

  • Sets out the boundary clearly as well as the consequences for breaking it

  • Leaves things open for further discussion, dialogue and negotiation

  • Gives the substance user responsibility for their behaviour and the choice they made

Communicating this way has three benefits.

  1. You get to say what is important to you

  2. You say it in a way that is easier for the other person to hear it

  3. Models good communication to the other person

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop” – Confucious


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