In a world where communication is available at our fingertips in an instance, it is ironic that true connection and communication appear to be lacking. We have social media, instant messaging, texting, screenshots, and all variety or digital screen-to-screen interactions. This can make face-to-face interaction feel more difficult or uncomfortable.
Dialectical behavior therapy, also referred to as DBT, has a mnemonic device D-E-A-R M-A-N focusing on meeting an objective within a relationship. This skill was developed as a component of Interpersonal Effectiveness module to help remind people of the basic skills involved in asking for your needs to be met in a healthy manner. It is important in all of our relationships that we feel comfortable being capable of communicating our needs and expectations with others. Without open communication, relationships can foster resentment, hurt feelings, and unmet needs.
DBT and Interpersonal Effectiveness
To begin acquiring some tools to help you along the path towards this aspect of interpersonal effectiveness, let’s explore the meaning of the DBT acronym, D-E-A-R M-A-N
- Describe: Use specific, objective words to describe the situation. You can’t ask for what you want, if you can’t describe.
- Express: Express your feelings and opinions using “I feel” statements. We often assume others know how we feel and this may be false. Don’t leave the other person guessing. Tell them clearly what you are feeling and why.
- Assert: Ask for what you want and say “no” clearly. Assert your wishes. Be clear, and mindful, find the balance between asserting your needs and staying away from aggression.
- Reinforce: Reinforce for the other person how responding to your request benefits them positively. If they know what’s in it for them, people are more likely to respond in the way we want them to respond.
- Mindful: Stay focused on your goal of the conversation. Don’t allow distracting thoughts or intense emotions. Don’t get sidetracked or off-topic. Ignore attacks.
- Appear confident: If you are having trouble believing in your request so will other people. Imagine yourself as confident and deserving. Maintain eye contact, keep good posture, and speak clearly.
- Negotiate: When our ideal wish is not met be willing to negotiate. Find the middle ground that is ‘good enough’ that doesn’t compromise your values. Getting some of what you’re asking for is better than getting none.
The ultimate aim of DBT is to help you learn to regulate your challenging emotions by letting yourself experience, recognise and accept them. Then as you learn to manage your emotions, you also become better equipped to deal with harmful behaviours. To help you achieve this, DBT therapists use a balance of acceptance and change techniques. If you would like to learn more about DBT, what it is for, what happens during therapy and how to find a therapist, you can head to Mind’s article about this.
Lianna Tsangarides is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been working with youth and families since 2007. Lianna has years of experience working in agencies and residential treatment settings prior to starting her private practice in 2015, where she helps teens and young adults struggling with addiction, trauma, and emotional struggles. She was drawn to private practice because of its flexibility and emphasis on individualised and personalised treatment. You can follow her on Twitter @