One of the things about DBT (that’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is that there are a lot of acronyms at play. Even for those who are in the midst of therapy, all the acronyms can be confusing. But for those who aren’t learning DBT – either to practice themselves or because they want to know what their friends or loved ones are learning – all these things can be really tricky to figure out. So I thought I would bust out s few of them, with explanations, so that people have a somewhat better idea of what’s going on.
First is DEAR MAN. DEAR MAN is a DBT acronym for an objectives effectiveness skill – that is, it is a skill to help DBT practitioners help to get what they want. That may seem devious, but a lot of people who need and learn DBT have difficulty expressing what they want in a way that makes sense, or avoids being overly emotional. So DEAR MAN is a shorthand for a way to make a clear, concise point, and get across meaning in a very simple way.
D – Describe. Describe the situation you are reacting to, or want to enact. Stick to the facts, and avoid emotional judgments.
E – Express. Express how you feel, preferably using “I” statements.
A – Assert. Assert yourself; make your request concisely and clearly, or say no. This step is important, because without it, the person, or people, you are talking to might be confused – they can’t read your mind.
R – Reinforce. Reinforce how getting what you want will be positive for everyone, or the consequences of not getting what you want. Repeat yourself if necessary.
M – Mindful. Be mindful of the conversation. Stay focused, and don’t let the conversation be derailed. Be a broken record; don’t let the other person change subjects, and don’t respond to attacks.
A – Appear confident. Stand up straight, look the other person in the eye, and speak clearly.
N – Negotiate. Be willing to give if you want to get, though also be aware of what you are willing to give – in this situation, there might not be any ground you are willing to surrender.
Next is GIVE. GIVE is about how to react to another person, how to treat them in a conversation – essentially, how to maintain relationships in conversation.
G – Gentle. Be gentle; don’t attack or threaten the other person, and don’t judge them. Focus on keeping the relationship.
I – Interested. Act interested in what the other person is saying; listen to them until you understand their point of view. Ask questions, but don’t interrupt. Try and cultivate a genuine interest in the other person and their conversation topics; it will help make a more fulfilling relationship.
V – Validate. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings, opinions, and expressions, and don’t judge them. You don’t have to agree with them, but it helps to find some kind of common ground.
E – Easy manner. Be calm, and try to keep things light-hearted. Use humor if you think it might work.
Third in the list of acronyms is FAST. This is for self-care, because for a lot of people in DBT, low self-image or self-respect is a problem. I know it was for me. SO this is a short checklist to help you keep from being overrun by negativity.
F –Fair. Be fair to both yourself and others – often people learning DBT have high emotional sensitivity, and have no problem being fair to others, but have trouble remembering being fair to themselves.
A – no Apologies. Don’t apologize for things you don’t need to apologize for – your life, your needs, your desires.
S – Stick. Stick to your values; compromising your values means a loss of self-respect, while maintaining your values can help to build self-respect.
T – Truthful. Be honest in your conversations. Don’t lie about how you feel; if you are close to falling apart, say so. Likewise, don’t act helpless when you are not.
These are all skills that focus on interpersonal effectiveness – that is, being effective in your relationships with other people. They may seem a little silly or basic, but I know that I’ve certainly made use of them. I haven’t always followed the DEAR MAN format, but having these things on my mind has helped me to interact with other people in a more helpful way.I’ll try to focus my next DBT post on survival and acceptance skills/