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The Limits of Open, Honest Communication

At the end of 2017, I am reflecting on the importance of open, honest communication. And when mental health, alcohol or other drug problems are involved communication can become difficult. Despite our good intentions we can end up challenging and questioning the people we love with a view to helping them to see the error of their ways and take their medication, stop drinking and stop drug taking. But here's the thing. When someone is not ready to change then no amount of challenging or questioning is going to make change happen. In fact, the opposite can happen and we can drive people away. So being open and honest is limited and needs to focus on strengthening relationships. This can happen by putting the spotlight on us. Yes, on us not on them. We need to talk about our thoughts and feelings and this takes lots of practice.

So, start with something positive rather than a difficult conversation. Start with an 'I' statement and a feeling word. "I feel happy". Then, describe a behaviour. "I feel happy when you say good morning to me". Explain why you feel happy about this. "I feel happy when you say good morning to me because it tells me you care about me". And then, make a request. "Please keep saying good morning to me, I really like it". It sounds weird but putting the focus on us can start to shift how we communicate with someone with a mental health, alcohol or other drug problem especially because for so long we have focused on them (which puts pressure on everyone).

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