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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of therapy that has been shown to be highly effective in treating a range of mental health issues, including borderline personality disorder, complex trauma and PTSD, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. One of the key components of DBT is the focus on interpersonal relationships and the importance of learning how to effectively communicate and get your needs met within those relationships.
In this blog post, we will discuss the DEARMAN skill, which is a key component of DBT that can help individuals communicate their needs effectively in relationships.
What is DEARMAN?
DEARMAN is an acronym that stands for:
D – Describe
E – Express
A – Assert
R – Reinforce
M – Mindful
A – Appear Confident
N – Negotiate
The DEARMAN skill is designed to help individuals communicate their needs effectively in relationships, while also maintaining a sense of self-respect and dignity. Let’s take a closer look at each component of the DEARMAN skill.
The first step in using the DEARMAN skill is to describe the situation as objectively as possible. This involves stating the facts of the situation without adding any judgments or assumptions. For example, if you are unhappy with your partner’s behavior, you might say something like, “When you come home late, like at 9pm when you said you would be home at 6pm, I feel…”
The next step is to express how the situation is affecting you emotionally. This involves stating your feelings in a clear and concise way. For example, you might say something like, “I feel hurt and disrespected when you come home late without letting me know.”
The third step is to assert your needs or desires in the situation. This involves stating what you would like to see happen or what you need from your partner. For example, you might say something like, “I would appreciate it if you could let me know when you will be home late, so that I can plan my evening accordingly.”
The fourth step is to reinforce your message by explaining why your needs or desires are important to you and how getting those needs met will benefit the other person and your overall relationship. This involves highlighting the positive outcomes that could result if your needs are met. For example, you might say something like, “If you let me know when you will be home late, I will be able to plan my evening better and we can avoid any misunderstandings or conflict.”
The fifth step is to remain mindful of your body language and tone of voice during the conversation. This involves using a calm and respectful tone, maintaining eye contact, and avoiding defensive or aggressive body language.
The sixth step is to appear confident in your communication. This involves speaking clearly and confidently, and maintaining a strong and assertive posture.
The final step is to negotiate a solution that works for both you and your partner. This involves being open to compromise and finding a solution that meets both of your needs.
Using DEARMAN in Relationships
Using the DEARMAN skill can be extremely helpful in getting your needs met in relationships. Whether you are in a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a professional relationship, the DEARMAN skill can help you communicate effectively and maintain a sense of self-respect and dignity.
Here are some tips for using the DEARMAN skill in relationships:
- Practice, practice, practice: Like any skill, using the DEARMAN skill takes practice. Start by using it in low-stakes situations and work your way up to more challenging conversations. Prepare for the conversation in advance by writing out the DEARMAN steps for your conversation.
- Focus on your own needs: When using the DEARMAN skill, it is important to focus on your own needs and desires. Avoid making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.
- Stay calm and respectful: Remaining calm and respectful during the conversation is key to effective communication.
Here’s an example DEARMAN script for getting your needs met in a romantic relationship:
Situation: You feel like your partner isn’t spending enough quality time with you, and you want to communicate your need for more focused attention and connection.
Describe: “I’ve noticed that we’ve been spending a lot of time together, but I’m feeling like we’re not really connecting on a deeper level. I miss the feeling of being truly present with you and having your focused attention.”
Express: “I feel like spending quality time together is an important way for us to strengthen our relationship and deepen our connection. When we don’t have that focused attention, I feel like we’re not as connected.”
Assert: “I need more quality time and focused attention in our relationship. Can we talk about ways that we can prioritize that in our daily interactions and make it a priority?”
Reinforce: “If we can make quality time and focused attention a priority, it will help me to feel more loved and connected to you, and it will strengthen our overall relationship.”
Mindful: “I want to approach this conversation with a calm and respectful tone, and I want to make sure that I’m not coming across as demanding or critical of our relationship.”
Appear Confident: “I’m confident that we can find a way to meet both of our needs for quality time and focused attention in our relationship.”
Negotiate: “Can we talk about specific actions we can take to prioritize quality time and focused attention in our relationship, such as setting aside time for date nights or making an effort to be fully present and engaged when we’re spending time together?”
In conclusion, using the DEARMAN skill can be a valuable tool for getting your needs met in a variety of different relationship contexts. By approaching conversations in a clear, confident, and assertive way, you can communicate your needs effectively and increase the likelihood of having them met. While this process may take some practice and may feel uncomfortable at first, it can ultimately lead to deeper and more satisfying relationships with the people who matter most to you. Remember to always be mindful of your own emotions and needs, as well as the needs of the other person, and approach conversations with empathy, respect, and a willingness to find common ground.