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DEAR MAN DBT Skill: How to Have a Productive Conversation

The DEAR MAN DBT Skill is a useful tool to use when you want to have a productive conversation. It is a handy little acronym full of advice on how to communicate with others more easily, effectively, and ethically. Do you want to communicate with others effectively? Do you struggle to express your own needs to others? Do you just keep putting your foot in your mouth and desperately want to stop? Try putting a few of these concepts into your daily practice. 

D.E.A.R Man DBT skill

Describe

 Describe what you’re reacting to. Communicate your needs in a clear and concise way. Be specific in what you’re talking about, and don’t go off on angry tangents about unrelated issues. Emphasize the things that are primarily upsetting you. 

Express

Express yourself. You need to describe your experience, not make assumptions about theirs. Use your “I” statements, which is a calm and gentle way of expressing how you feel. Rather than saying “You never spend time with me!” you would instead say something like “I feel sad and disappointed when we don’t spend a lot of time together.” Be intentional about your tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

Assert

Try to find balance in the way you express your needs to others. Being too aggressive or passive aggressive will get you nowhere. You will only make things worse for yourself. You can be assertive by being open and honest about what you want. Tell the person you’re communicating with exactly what you’d like to see in the future. 

Reinforce

If the person you’re communicating to responds positively to you, reward their behavior. Try to empathize with their point of view, while still being respectful and connected with your own feelings. Don’t be overly attached to what may have happened in the past. Make it easy for them to agree with you.

Stay Mindful

Don’t try to retread the fight you had with this person last week. Focus on what is happening right now, in the present moment. Don’t become lost in a tornado of swirling negative experiences. Be thoughtful and aware of what your goals are, and make steps out of common sense, not anger. 

Appear Confident

It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that it’s enough to have a good heart and good intentions, but it is vital to put our best foot forward when we communicate with others. Pay attention to your body language, and how you are communicating your message physically. Maintain a confident posture, without appearing confrontational. 

Negotiate

Be true to your needs and values, but still be willing to compromise. Open your heart up to forgiveness if you feel heard, understood, and safe. Remember the goals you had when you began having this conversation, and let your words be in service to those goals. 

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Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.

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