Resident Code of Conduct: Using Person-First Language, continued

Creating a Resident Code of Conduct for a Recovery House > Resident Code of Conduct: Using Person-First Language, continued

How do you feel when someone tells you that something is mandatory? 

We all have different feelings. For many, when they are told that something is mandatory, it may bring up feelings of helplessness, like they have no choices. It may also bring up feelings of frustration or lack of control over their circumstances.

Also, it may diminish understanding. People may be reluctant to ask good questions and gain understanding, because they may feel like it does not matter if they understand. This is generally not the goal of the social model of recovery.

What are you trying to convey when you state that something is mandatory? 

Most often, when people state that something is mandatory, it is in an attempt to ensure that the person understands how serious the matter is. We want others to take the issue seriously and pay attention to what we have to say. However, overuse of these terms may not have the intended effect.

How do you feel when someone asks if you will agree to do something? 

When we are asked if we will agree to do something, that acknowledges that we are an active participant in the agreement. When asked to do something, people tend to feel empowered, like they have a role and a choice. This encourages people to take ownership of their responsibilities and allows them to think critically, ask good questions and gain understanding.

Under the social model of recovery, resident involvement is encouraged. Phrasing your code of conduct in terms of agreements, rather than mandatory statements, helps the residents to understand their critical role within the recovery housing environment and grow a sense of community within the house, while empowering the residents to take charge of their own lives.

In your code of conduct, consider person-first language terms that are more social-model oriented, such as:

  • “I agree to…” instead of “must”
  • “I commit to…” instead of “mandatory”
  • “I will refrain from…” instead of “prohibited”
  • “I understand…” instead of “zero-tolerance”

Use of person-first language lets individuals choose and maintain the integrity of the individual as a human being.

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