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Negotiation Strategies In Addiction Affected Families
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In the last section, we discussed the mirroring of symptoms in the addict’s family, and the four character defect personality types: the caretaker, the perfectionist, the procrastinator, and the rageoholic.
In this section, we will discuss the five different negotiation styles found in the families of addicts: Adversaries, aggressors, appeasers, avoiders, and analysts, as well as the constructive form of negotiation, the ambassador.
I find there are five types of negotiation styles found in the families of addicts: adversary, aggressor, appeaser, avoider, and analyst. Each of these styles unwittingly supports addiction. As you are aware, family members of addicts believe they are working to better the situation; but they can usually recognize how other members of the family enable the addiction. There is a sixth negotiation style, the ambassador, that does not spontaneously occur in the families of addicts. I find that one goal of treating the family of an addict is to transform all of the members into ambassadors.
6 Negotiation Styles
♦ Negotiation Style # 1 - Adversary
The first type of negotiation style I find in the families of addicts is the adversary. The adversary is the addict, or, more precisely, the addiction itself. The adversary needs to win at all costs. Since the addict believes they need their alcohol or drug to survive, every negotiation is perceived as a fight for their life. As a result, the adversary is hostile, inflexible, aggressive, and secretive. They use threats to intimidate, or lies to pacify. The adversary, as you know, manages their addiction by managing the family. There is no middle ground; the goal is to protect the addiction and avoid pain. To an adversary, solutions are seen as threats.
♦ Negotiation Style # 2 - Aggressors
The second type, Aggressors, deflect input from other people. They want to deal with the addict in their own way, and refuse to change their way of thinking once they have made up their minds. Aggressors are more interested in protecting their own point of view than in exploring solutions. They tend to bully others into submission, and over time become increasingly hostile, facilitating a breakdown in family communication.
♦ Negotiation Style # 3 - Appeasers
Appeasers fluctuate between playing the rescuer and the victim. They do not believe they can win, so they settle for a life that isn’t too unpleasant. They try to protect what they have, rather than work towards a solution. Appeasers are always busy ‘helping’, but are unwilling to work towards meaningful change; they submit to the addict’s threats and are easily intimidated. Appeasers work hard to resolve the daily problems of addicts, because they believe that the only way they will not lose is if the addict does not lose.
♦ Negotiation Style # 4 - Avoiders
In addition to adversaries, aggressors, and appeasers, Avoiders don’t like conflict. They ignore problems by hiding, stalling, or delaying. Avoiders often live in self-imposed isolation. Because they cut themselves off from cooperative efforts, avoiders are at a greater disadvantage than other negotiators. They believe they have no choice but to withdraw, and their goal is just to survive. Avoiders see suggested solutions as intrusions into the addict’s right to self-determination. Over time, avoiders become lonely, unfulfilled, and fearful.
♦ Negotiation Style # 5 - Analysts
In addition to adversaries, aggressors, appeasers, and avoiders, I find that the final negotiation style found in the families of addicts is analysts. Analysts are always trying to understand. They displace primary problems onto something else, redirecting emotion from a threatening situation to a safer one. An analysts will see low self-esteem as the problem, rather than addiction. Analysts avoid taking action by always looking for more information, and by picking apart situations. These individuals tie themselves up in logic to avoid feeling. Analysts usually end up becoming emotionally detached from others in their family.
♦ Negotiation Style # 6 - Ambassadors
Ambassadors, who are family members of the addict, are ideal negotiators. These are individuals motivated by love for their family, and by zero tolerance for untreated addiction. Ambassadors are able to differentiate between the disease of addiction and the person suffering from it. An ambassadors motto is "we will not give in to the disease". When provoked, an ambassador responds quickly and firmly, drawing a line between working for recovery and supporting addiction. A key skill of an ambassador is maintaining a firm stance while keeping relationships with the addict in their lives, leaving the door open for future negotiations.
How to Become an Ambassador
Becoming an ambassador is a conscious choice for the family members of an addict. It requires learning new skills, and often family members need professional guidance. Once the family does learn to be ambassadors, it is difficult for even the most recalcitrant addict to resist. John and Betty’s 32-year-old son Ben had been addicted to cocaine for many years.
Every time they tried to discuss the addiction with Ben, he told them "If you ever have an intervention with me, I’ll never speak to you again! I know all about those things anyway; it won’t work on me." John and Betty always acquiesced. They didn’t understand that Ben’s addiction was using the statement "it won’t work on me" as a way of protecting itself. Fortunately, Ben’s two sisters insisted on intervention.
Although John and Betty were convinced they would not succeed, they joined their daughters in the training process for intervention, and did everything recommended. John, Betty, their daughters, and several of Ben’s friends joined the training, and learned to become ambassadors.
At the end of the intervention for Ben, John turned to his son and said "Will you accept the help we are offering you?". Ben looked up at John and said "Where do you want me to go?" By learning the skills to become an ambassador, John was able to get through to Ben and get him into a treatment program.
♦ Confrontation Role-Play Technique
I used the Confrontation Role-Play Technique with John, his family, and Ben’s friends.
-- Step # 1 - I had the group divide into groups of three: one playing the adversary, one the ambassador, and the third as an observer.
-- Step # 2 - During the role-play, the observer made note of the constructive skills used by the ambassador; for example, the use of personal statements, behavior descriptions, direct statement of personal feelings, understanding and interpretive responses, and constructive feedback.
-- Step # 3 - After the role-plays were complete, we discussed the results as a large group. Early on, we role-played generalized situations - one example was to role-play a confrontation with an adversary who frequently embarrassed others with bad table manners and offensive jokes.
-- Step # 4 - As the group progressed, we began role-playing confrontation situations more specific to the family’s situation with Ben. Have you considered using this or a similar role-playing technique involving the family of an addict.
In this section, we have discussed the six negotiation styles found in the families of addicts - adversaries, aggressors, appeasers, avoiders, and analysts, as well as the constructive ambassador form of negotiation. Would it be helpful to play this section during your next session with your client who is the family member of an addict?
In the next section, we will discuss preparing for a structured family intervention by determining if the skills of a professional interventionist are needed.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Gregg, L., Haddock, G., Emsley, R., & Barrowclough, C. (2014). Reasons for substance use and their relationship to subclinical psychotic and affective symptoms, coping, and substance use in a nonclinical sample. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 28(1), 247–256.
Leadbeater, B. J., Hellner, I., Allen, J. P., & Aber, J. L. (1989). Assessment of interpersonal negotiation strategies in youth engaged in problem behaviors. Developmental Psychology, 25(3), 465–472.
Rusby, J. C., Light, J. M., Crowley, R., & Westling, E. (2018). Influence of parent–youth relationship, parental monitoring, and parent substance use on adolescent substance use onset. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(3), 310–320.
What are the five negotiation styles found in the families of addicts? To select and enter your answer go to .