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Communication and DBT

In dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), there are specific skills dedicated to helping relationships flourish while still receiving what you want and need. The skills of “interpersonal effectiveness” will increase one’s ability to achieve goals by giving the tools to ask for what is desired while maintaining self-respect and preserving relationships. Keeping integrity within relationships can be tricky, but by using the skills of interpersonal effectiveness, you will be able to find the balance between demanding what you want and asking for what you need.

It is important that in relationships we feel capable of communicating with others about desires and expectations. Without open communication, relationships can develop resentments, unmet needs, and hurt feelings. One step to learning how to ask for what you need from others is remembering that you’re not guaranteed to get it! While this can be extremely frustrating, knowing possible outcomes can prepare you for any situation. It is important to remember that even the most skilled communicators do not always get what they ask for.

DEAR MAN is an interpersonal effectiveness skill that is used to help you ask for what you want in a respectful way while fostering healthy relationships. This acronym allows those who practice the skills to effectively and clearly express their needs and desires, and get what they want out of an interaction.

First one should:

  • D- Describe the situation (“I frequently lend you my clothes, but you do not return them after I ask you to”)

  • E- Express her feelings (“I feel hurt and angry when you do not return my clothes”)

  • A- Assert her wants (“I would really appreciate it if you would return my clothes when I ask”)

  • R- Reinforce why her friend should comply with her request (“I would feel better about our friendship and will not feel resentful toward you”)

After that, the you should:

  • M- Stay mindful, ignoring any side attacks (for example, the client’s friend might point out that she never calls her back; the client needs to ignore this and stay focused on her goal)

  • A- Appear confident (being sure not to be overly aggressive or overly passive)

  • N- Be willing to negotiate (“I am willing to remind you once to return my clothes if you will agree to return them when I remind you”)

It can be helpful to practice this skill with someone that you trust. As you continue to practice DEAR MAN, you can become effective in communication, clearly express your needs, and ultimately get what you want!

Written by Chrissy McClain, LAPC, NCC

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