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How Can You Use DBT Skills To Get What You Want? Pt. 1

By: Zana Van Der Smissen

Interpersonal skills are something that every person needs in order to communicate effectively in their relationships and, therefore, is also something that can be improved upon. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT has a set of modules that allows the individual to work on reacting to their environment, regulating their emotions, improving their relationships as well as being more mindful/present in their life. 

Today, in this blog, I will be covering DBT skills that specifically discuss interpersonal effectiveness, which consists of four main skills that were created by Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT. The four skills include:

  • DEAR MAN (getting what you want)
  • GIVE (keeping the relationship)
  • FAST (Keeping respect for yourself)
  • Building boundaries in relationships. 

Many of the skills included in DBT are acronyms so let’s break them down and learn together on how we can communicate our needs in relationships and make friendships last! 

Firstly, let’s explore DEAR MAN and use this tool to help you get what you want. It sounds direct, but Marsha Linehan had set certain objectives she wanted to achieve with this acronym. The objectives were as follows: “Obtaining your legitimate rights, getting another person to do something that you want that person to do, saying no to an unwanted or unreasonable request, resolving an interpersonal conflict, and getting your opinion or point of view taken seriously” (Linehan, 2015). If you have found yourself struggling with these objectives, then maybe DEAR MAN is a skill that could be helpful for you. That said, what is DEAR MAN an acronym for? 

D – Describe

E – Express

A Assert

R – Reinforce


M – Mindful

A – Appear Confident

N – Negotiate

Breaking this down further, DEAR MAN can be used when in a conversation with someone and trying to get what you want. You go through the steps and allow yourself to stay on task with the objective you have in mind. An example of this would be when you are trying to get another person to see your point of view. You describe the situation such as, “You told me that you were going to meet me at the restaurant and then you didn’t show up,” and you proceed to express your feeling about the situation, saying, “This made me feel unwanted and forgotten about like I wasn’t a priority to you.” 

To assert, you can go about it in two ways, you can either: 

1) Say no.

2) Ask for what you want. In this scenario, you assert by saying, “I would really like it if you clearly communicated if you weren’t going to come to dinner.” Then, for reinforcement, you can go about it in two additional ways. Again, you can either:

1) Explain the positive rewards of getting what you want. 

2) Explain the negative consequences that can occur from not getting what you want. In this case, you can reinforce by saying, “If you don’t communicate with me moving forward, I don’t see this relationship working out.” You have now asked for what you wanted, MAN is the part of the acronym to keep in mind while the recipient responds or talks to you. 

Be mindful, stay present with the conversation, do not allow it to go astray, and keep remembering the objective of the talk in the first place. Appear confident is all about body language, the tone of your voice, and ensuring that the other person can believe what you are saying. Finally, negotiation is all about coming to a compromise or finding what works between you and that other person. Perhaps it means being more clear with expectations or establishing more communication in the relationship. 

This skill can be used in various situations and can also be a good reminder when other people are talking about something they want from you. That being said, this could be a good foundation to start establishing better boundaries, saying no, and asking for what you want in a respectful and healthy manner. As you navigate relationships, always feel free to reach out to Symmetry Counseling to see how therapy in Chicago can help if you are needing more guidance from one of our counselors. Stay tuned for the next breakdown of a DBT skill! 

Linehan. (2015). DBT Training Manual, Second Edition. Guilford Press.

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