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Interpersonal Skills

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Photo by Leah Kelley on

What is DBT, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy? DBT is an evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat borderline personality disorder. DBT has been proven useful in treating mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for change in behavioural patterns such as self-harm, and substance abuse.

That’s the wordy way of say it’s structured therapy aimed at looking at behaviours. Boom, get that in the Dictionary.

This post is going to be looking at interpersonal skills, particularly, how to get your point across or ask for something. Before we start with anything else, you have to prioritise what is this most important thing in this interaction. You have three options here:

  1. Maintaining the relationship

  2. Achieving your goal

  3. Keeping your self respect

For example, if I was going to the bank to get a charge taken off that I don’t think I should pay then my main goal is achieving my goal. If my boss was asking me to work extra hours for no extra pay, it would be my self-respect. If I wanted my sister to stop talking about something, it’s the relationship that’s the most important thing.

Now we’ve made this decision we have acronyms. DEARMAN, GIVE and FAST.

Describe Express Assert Reinforce Mindful Appear confident Negotiate

Gentle Interested Validate Easy manner

Fair Apologies Stick to values Truthful

If your most important goal is getting your objective:

Only use the DEARMAN skills. Describe the current situation by sticking to the facts and using no judgements. Express your feelings and opinions about the situation, don’t assume that the other person already knows this. Assert yourself, by asking for what you want or saying “no” clearly. Reinforce the other person that by explaining the positive effects of what you want. Remain mindful by focusing on the goal, if you feel like you sound like a broken record, just continue; maintain your position. Appear confident, effective and competent, even if you don’t feel this way it will help get your point across. Finally, negotiate. You need to be willing to give to get without compromising your goal.

If your must important goal is maintaining the relationship:

You need to use the DEARMAN and GIVE skills together. Following all of the skills above add the GIVE skills by being nice and respectful with no attacks, no threats, no judging and no sneering. Act interested and really listen to the other persons point of view. Validate their point of view with both words and actions. “I see that you are busy…” “I realise this is hard for you” these are good examples of how to do that. Finally, keep an easy manner or use humour and smile.

If your must important goal is your self-respect:

Here is where we use all three skills together, DEARMAN, GIVE and FAST. Including all the skills above also be fair. This means be fair to yourself not just the other person. No unjustified apologies, don’t apologise when you have done nothing wrong. Don’t compromise on your values, you don’t need to abandon your values to please others. Lastly, be truthful. Don’t lie, exaggerate or stretch the truth. Don’t make excuses. Don’t act HELPLESS or take advantage of others when you are capable of helping yourself!

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This may seem like a lot to take in for something so little. But it isn’t so little. It is the bench mark for how we communicate with people. If we can’t express our desires, ask for what we need or say no to things we don’t want to do, then who are we? We aren’t being our authentic self. We need to be our authentic selves! We are worth it!

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