DBT Skill #4: Interpersonal Effectiveness
By Maia Christopherson
The fourth foundational skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is interpersonal effectiveness. Interpersonal effectiveness teaches patients how to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships. There are three acronyms that patients use to understand and apply interpersonal effectiveness:
Patients use the acronym DEAR MAN to convey their needs to another person.
- Describe your situation using specific factual statements.
- Express your emotions experienced when the situation occurred, why this is an issue, and how you feel about it.
- Assert yourself by asking clearly and specifically what you want.
- Reinforce your position by offering a positive consequence if you were to get what you want.
- Mindful of the situation by keeping your focus on your objective, maintaining your position, and not getting distracted.
- Appear confident and assertive, even if you don’t feel confident.
- Negotiate and come to a comfortable compromise.
The acronym GIVE helps patients maintain relationships in conversations, whether they are with friends, coworkers, family, romantic partners, etc.
- Gentle: Use appropriate language, no verbal or physical attacks, no put-downs, avoid sarcasm unless you are sure the person is alright with it, and be courteous and non-judgmental.
- Interested: When the person you are speaking with is talking about something, act interested in what they are saying. Maintain eye contact, ask questions, etc. Avoid using your cell phone during an in-person conversation.
- Validate: Show understanding and sympathy of a person’s situation. Validation can be shown through words, body language, and facial expressions.
- Easy Manner: Be calm and comfortable during the conversation. Use humor and smile.
The acronym FAST helps patients maintain self-respect.
- Fair: Be fair to both yourself and the other person.
- Apologies (few): Don’t apologize more than once for what you have done ineffectively or for something that was ineffective.
- Stick to Your Values: Stay true to what you believe in and stand by it. Don’t allow others to encourage you to act against your own values.
- Truthful: Don’t lie. Lying can only pile up and damage relationships and your self-respect.