Note: I wish I could guarantee results, but success depends on many
factors. Do the best you can, and let's hope you have success.

Guidelines for Dialogue

© 2003 Dick Wulf, MSW 

For good dialogue, it is important to follow these basic ground rules:

(1) You don't need anyone's permission to answer what is true for you. These are your answers. But, try to be careful regarding your answers. Other family members will be trying to remember what you said so that they can better understand you and treat you better.

(2) No arguing, criticizing, or objecting. People hate to be criticized about things they say. They know what they think and feel, and they consider it absurd and insensitive if others think they know these things better.

(3) Listen in order to understand the other person, not to change him or her.

(4) Ask lots of questions (usually "why?" and "what do you mean?") to clarify what is being communicated. Other clarifying questions can be: What? What for? How? When? How come? Where? In what way? Can you explain? Please tell me more.

(5) Refrain from giving advice or breaking in with your own thoughts or feelings on the subject. When the other person is through can no longer answer any more questions or you can think of no more you can ask permission to share your feelings and thoughts about the subject. (But, not about how the other person said things!)

(6) Let people be themselves, even if they give an answer that you do not agree with or like. Instead of objecting or offering criticism, ask the other persons "Why" questions. This will help you clarify what they are saying, what they think and feel about things, and who they are. Other people will appreciate your efforts to understand them.

(7) Avoid conflict over answers. There are no "right" or "wrong" answers. There is just what a person says. It is not very appreciated if you know about a person without talking it over with him or her. On the other hand, you get a lot of appreciation for asking and learning about another person from his or her own words.

(8) Solve problems only after much dialogue has produced deeper understanding. Dialogue will expose some differences that might have to be solved. Make a note of those you think might need some discussion and problem-solving to do later. But, during the time of dialogue, do not bring up problems.