Hello all,

As I mentioned previously, my next few blogs will cover a little bit from each DBT module that Summit offers. I shared an exercise from the Mindfulness module last time and will be sharing a skill from our Interpersonal Effectiveness module that started on January 19th and 20th 2022.

By far this is my favorite module to teach, and recommend it highly to anyone interested in DBT. It is a great way to learn more about how to communicate effectively with others, most notably those with whom we have the closest relationships. What follows is also the most common skill I teach with individual clients.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the DEARMAN.

DEARMAN stands for Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, (Stay) Mindful, Appear Confident, and Negotiate.

First, we want to Describe the current situation, but make sure you stick to the facts of the situation. A big temptation is to bring up issues from the past, which has the nasty habit of causing situations to escalate unnecessarily. Just tell the person exactly what it is you have an issue with at that moment.

Next, we want to Express our feelings and opinions about the situation. Never assume the other person knows how you feel or can read your mind. We want to avoid what I refer to as “the Shoulds” if possible. What I mean is we should avoid using language like “you should,” or “you shouldn’t.” Instead use “I” statements like “I want” or “I don’t want.”

After this, we want to Assert ourselves by asking specifically for what we want or to say no clearly to the other person or persons. This is a very important part of this skill as we must remind ourselves that others cannot read our minds. We must tell others what we want from them or for ourselves.

Next, we Reinforce (i.e., reward) the other person by explaining any positive outcomes that may come about as a result of you getting what you want or need. Of course, there may also be negative outcomes as well. Explain those if necessary.

Be sure to (Stay) Mindful after you have done all of the above. Keep your focus on your goals and maintain your position. Be a “broken record” if you have to. Keep asking for what you want or keep saying no. Unfortunately, attacks may come as a result of you standing your ground. Do not respond to attacks or attempts to deflect or change the subject. Keep making your point – over and over and over, if you have to.

Just as important as staying mindful is Appearing Confident. Notice that I didn’t mention that you have to feel or be confident – simply appear so. This means using a confident tone of voice and physical manner, and making good eye contact. Avoid stammering, whispering, looking down at the floor, or retreating. Don’t tell someone you are not sure when you are 100% sure you know what you want.

Lastly, be willing to Negotiate. Be willing to give to get. Be willing to offer, or ask for, other solutions to the problem. Be willing to reduce your request if it’s appropriate or possible. If you are saying no, offer to do something else that won’t violate your values.

There are lots of other skills to aid in improving our interpersonal effectiveness, but I hope this has been a beneficial starter lesson for you. If you or someone you know are in need of therapy, and would like to know more about DBT and what it is designed to treat, please reach out to me at mmerritt@summitcounseling.org for more information.

Take care!