I work with many clients who struggle with approaching their partners with difficult, yet very important requests. As their clinical therapist, I help the client better understand why they are struggling to ask their partner for their needs and possible coping skills to express their feelings, emotions, thoughts, and needs.
I recently read an article from the Mindfulness Muse that touched on this very topic utilizing a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) technique known as the ‘DEAR MAN’ acronym, “Using D-E-A-R M-A-N to get what you want” by author Laura Chang Ph.D. The acronym stands for: Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, Stay Mindful, Appear Confident, and Negotiate.
Below describes the acronym step by step for the ‘Dear Man’ technique from Dr. Chang’s article.
- Describe. The first step in getting what you want from your partner is to describe to your partner what it is that you want in clear and simple language.
- Express. Expressing yourself simply means utilizing your tone, language, and body language. Some people can get stuck in this stage if they struggle with managing their emotions. This step is best done through expressing feelings while balancing a sense of self-control.
- Assert. Asserting yourself does not mean being aggressive, but simply stating things in a matter of a fact way as you assert what it is that you want.
- Reinforce. Make sure to explain to your partner why it is that you want this request from them. Remind them of the possible outcomes they could receive from this request. For example, maybe you are requesting them to implement more work life balance in order to receive more quality time with you and the kids. Reinforcing that if they are better able to prioritize the family, it can bring closeness with the kids and with you as their partner. People want to feel good about a request, not something they feel coerced into doing.
- Stay Mindful. It is important to stay mindful while asking for the request. This simply means not allowing distracting thoughts or emotions to lead you off topic. If your partner responds with being defensive, be mindful when they are doing this and don’t also respond with being defensive, as that will likely create a big argument. Maintain your focus. Some people find it helpful to even practice taking deep breaths during their discussion to help them stay on track with their request.
- Appear Confident. People tend to take others more seriously if the other person is appearing confident. Use a visualization exercise in which you are getting what you want from your partner because you feel you deserve it. This can even be done prior to the conversation by practicing self-validation in which you validate yourself in knowing you deserve this request.
- Negotiate. The final step is negotiating with your partner. Keep in mind you may not get exactly what you want from them, but maybe you find a compromise in which you both are happy and meet each other half way. When your partner sees that you are willing to negotiate on your request, they then see you as a more reasonable individual. It is also important to note that when compromising, it does not mean to compromise your values.
The ‘DEAR MAN’ communication method is done more successfully when you ask only one request at a specific time. Your partner will likely shut down if you ask multiple things from them all at once. Not that your other requests don’t matter, but perhaps approach your partner with them in the future. This simply goes back to the step Stay Mindful, as in stay focused on one request at a time.
If you are currently struggling with asking your partner for what you want, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.