Have you ever struggled to get your point across in a way that was tactful, concise, yet firm? Some conversations can be harder than others. That's where DEAR MAN DBT can help.
What is DEAR MAN DBT?
How exactly do you use it during conversations? In this post, we'll explore the answers to those questions.
DEAR MAN is an acronym that describes a technique that you can use to communicate your needs and expectations in a healthy, direct way.
DEAR MAN stands for:
DBT Refers to Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. It is a form of therapy that was developed in the late 1970s by Marsha Linehan.
DBT was formed as part of Linehan's attempt to apply standard Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to chronically suicidal clients.
DBT is based on CBT, but places a greater focus on emotional and social aspects, such as acceptance and validation.
CBT focuses on how your thoughts, feelings and behavior influence each other.
While DBT does work on these things, emphasis is given more towards regulating emotions, being mindful, and learning to accept pain.
The four main DBT skills are:
Each letter in DEAR MAN represents an interpersonal effectiveness skill in dialectical behavioral therapy.
The purpose of interpersonal effectiveness skills is to help you get what you need from your relationships while being respectful of yourself and others.
Let's dive deeper into what each letter means and how to apply it.
The first step in DEAR MAN DBT is Describe.
Describe refers to clearly and concisely conveying the facts of the situation, without any judgment or implication of motives.
When you describe the situation to the other party, you want to stick to the facts.
E.g. "You have been regularly communicating with your ex every week for the last 3 months."
The E in DEAR MAN DBT stands for Express.
This is when you communicate how the situation makes you feel, using "I" statements.
The key here is to express your emotions without getting upset.
Using "I" statements help you express your concerns and feelings without blaming the listener, which could cause them to shut down or go into defense mode.
E.g. "I feel hurt when you turn to her instead of me, I feel like I am not enough."
The next step in DEAR MAN DBT is to assert by directly asking for what you want, or saying "no" clearly.
Asserting yourself may feel uncomfortable, but remember that the other person cannot read your mind.
You should be specific and clear when giving instructions or making requests, so there's no room for misinterpretation.
E.g. "For me to feel confident in this relationship moving forward, you need to stop texting your ex."
The R in DEAR MAN DBT stands for Reinforce.
This is where you point out the benefits of granting your request. What does the other person get out of it?
You're essentially rewarding the person ahead of time for compliance, and explaining positive effects of getting what you want or need.
This can be done verbally, or through kind gestures, such as smiling. It can even be as simple as saying "Thank you!".
E.g. "I appreciate all the efforts you make in our relationship, and I know that this will draw us together and benefit us in the long-term.”
The next letter in DEAR MAN DBT is M, which stands for Mindfulness.
Being mindful of your goal means not getting side-tracked or distracted by other issues.
If the person you're talking to is acting defensive, try to keep the conversation on course.
Mindfulness may also include trying not to get distracted by things going on around you, such as noise. Try to have the conversation in a quiet, calm environment.
You should also pay attention to your own and the other person’s posture, tone of voice, facial expression and level of discomfort.
Strive to adopt a willing posture and a calm, respectful tone of voice.
E.g. "I would like us to come to an agreement regarding your communication with your ex, before we discuss your interactions with her parents."
The A in DEAR Man DBT stands for appear - more specifically appear confident.
Regardless of how you feel on the inside, try to maintain a confident demeanour.
Use a confident tone of voice, stand up straight, keep your head up, and make good eye contact.
Even if the other person says something that offends you or takes you off guard, try to maintain your composure.
Why is this important?
When you appear confident, the other person will take you seriously and sense that there is an air of finality to your decision.
They'll also be more inclined to view your request as valid and reasonable, since you're confident in it yourself.
Finally, the last step in DEAR MAN DBT is negotiate.
You should know the limits of what you are willing to accept, but be willing to compromise within them.
Focus on your goal but be practical about what will work.
Ultimately, interpersonal effectiveness is not about dictating to other people what they should do.
The ideal outcome is where both parties feel like they have won.
Have a conversation about how you might be able to resolve the problem together. You can even turn the tables and ask the other person for their ideas on solutions to the problem.
E.g. "Of course, I want us to be reasonable here. I'm not saying that you cut off contact completely, just that you don't communicate unless it's an emergency, or something absolutely necessary that we've discussed beforehand. Is there anything you feel I can do to help?"
Putting everything together, here's an example of what DEAR MAN DBT looks like in practice:
Describe: "You have been communicating with your ex every week for the last 3 months."
Express: "I feel hurt when you turn to her instead of me, I feel like I am not enough."
Assert: “For me to feel confident in this relationship moving forward, you need to stop texting your ex."
Reinforce: "I appreciate all the efforts you make in our relationship, and I know that this will draw us together and benefit us in the long-term.”
Mindfulness: "I would like us to come to an agreement regarding your communication with your ex, before we discuss your interactions with her parents."
Appear confident: (Use a confident tone of voice, stand up straight, keep your head up, and make good eye contact).
Negotiate: "Of course, I want us to be reasonable here. I'm not saying that you cut off contact completely, just that you don't communicate unless it's an emergency, or something absolutely necessary that we've discussed beforehand. Is there anything you feel I can do to help?"
DEAR MAN DBT works because it reminds you of the elements of effective communication that can be easy to forget when you're engaged in a difficult, tense, conversation.
Of course, for it to be most effective, you want to review the acronym before heading into the conversation - it's not much use if you only think of it after.
The beauty of DEAR MAN DBT is that it is applicable in a wide range of scenarios, you can take the main idea and customize it based on the specific points of discussion.
If you use the DEAR MAN DBT framework, you'll be able to discuss topics that could potentially be contentious in a cool, calm and collected manner that shows respect for both yourself and the listener.
Thanks for reading!
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