Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How Can Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Help Maintain Relationships

How Can Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Help Maintain Relationships

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Most communication today is done digitally, via instant messenger, texting, Snapchat, etc. In a world where communication is literally at our fingertips it can be hard to feel connected in a meaningful way.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) offers an entire module to teaching skills to help with learning to communicate openly, more clearly, and in a meaningful way. This module is called ‘Interpersonal Effectiveness’ and focuses on how the way you communicate with others and offers skills to help maintain relationships.

One of the skill sets being taught in the Interpersonal Effectiveness module is the G-I-V-E skill. This acronym teaches relationship effectiveness. Relationship effectiveness represents the goal of a conflict free or conflict manageable relationship. The G-I-V-E skill teaches us the tools needed to act in a way that the other person continues to like and respect you, balance immediate goals with the good of the long-term relationship, and maintain relationship that matter to you.

Remember to ‘give’

  • Gentle. Being gentle means being kind, non-judgemental, and respectful in how we interact with another person. Try to stay away from blaming, shaming, or accusing another person. Instead ask clarifying questions if needed. Avoid attacks, try to keep your voice ‘low’ and be mindful of your facials and body language. If you treat others with respect they are more likely to reciprocate.
  • Interested. People love to be listened to. If you show interest in them they will want to spend more time with you. Even if you aren’t always that interested in the topic show interest because you are interested in them. Make eye contact, nod, ask follow-up questions, try not to interrupt them or change the topic. Even better than acting interested is being genuinely interested. I have found that there is always something interesting if you truly pay attention and others will notice your efforts.
  • Validate. Everyone wants to feel that their feelings are understood. If you validate someone with your responses you are showing you understand them. You can do this with your expressions, your words, as well as your actions. Utilise reflective listening to show you understand. Validation is not the same as agreement, it is letting someone know you respect their experience and sharing the space with them.
  • Easy manner. Relax. Try to be approachable, chill out. Be light-hearted and flexible. If you are struggling with your own emotions or mood, try to set them aside and focus on the other person. People enjoy spending time with people who are easy to be with. Not everything needs to be a fight to the death. This doesn’t mean to abandon your values (but that’s a different DBT skill, F-A-S-T).


The Interpersonal Effective skills taught in DBT can increase the likelihood of positive outcomes in relationships and help you maintain happy healthy relationships for long-term. When used effectively, G-I-V-E skill can enable you to have relationships built on a foundation of respect, integrity, compassion, and connection. If you keep this skill in mind you should have little trouble keeping and maintaining relationships.

Lianna Tsangarides is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been working with youth and families since 2007.


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