5 Magic Words: “This Doesn’t Work for Me”

Eight-year-old Finn disappeared. Yes, I told him to play outside, yes it was a beautiful day after a week of rain and the tide was out and there were baby crabs under rocks to check out, but he had a friend visiting from school. How could I explain to the mother that the boys had just, well, disappeared on my watch? I yelled out the back door. No Finn. I trotted down to the beach and there, faraway, I could make out 2 specks in the shape of boys bent over a rock.

When he returned I said the magic words: This doesn’t work for me, to vanish like that. I explained why and Finn apologized and they went back outside on a shorter leash, armed with my words.

This doesn’t work for me covers all territory–thorny conflicts, minor transgressions, betrayals and kids underfoot when all you want to do is make one tiny phone call. No one can argue with it. They can’t say Yes it does. It is your truth and it offers you the opportunity to explain why it doesn’t work. The words are better than yelling, more effective than nagging, and have more power to change behavior than What the heck were you thinking?!?

I have used them supervising 200 people in a fish plant in Alaska, with my husband when the behavior I thought was temporary turned out to be more. I have said them to my grown children, my grandchildren, and neighbors who crossed a line. This doesn’t work for me takes the sting out of you-based accusations and finger pointing.  My family has used them on me.

Next time you are faced with a behavior you have no more tolerance for try it.

This doesn’t work for me.  You have nothing to lose.


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