Dr. Elisheva Jakobov-Assouline
Have you ever had a situation where you felt your needs were not being met? Maybe you were overly aggressive or perhaps you were too passive when making your request. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, the Interpersonal Effectiveness module teaches individuals how to strengthen current relationships, build new and satisfying relationships, and end relationships that are unhealthy. The DEARMAN (acronym) skill is one skill in DBT, which is designed to help individuals express their needs assertively and effectively. This blog will further explore DEARMAN in depth and how it can be a transformative skill when interacting with others to get your needs met.
Let us break down each component
D – Describe
The first step in DEARMAN involves describing the situation using objective and factual language. Stick to the facts of the situation. This sets the stage for clear communication, ensuring that all parties have a shared understanding of the situation. By focusing on the objective components of the situation, individuals can avoid subjective interpretations and potential misunderstandings when issues arise. For example, “In the last month, I have noticed that I have been taking on additional tasks for the team, including coordinating schedules and handling extra paperwork.”
E – Express
Expressing oneself is an essential component of effective communication. In DEARMAN, individuals are encouraged to use “I” statements to communicate their feelings and opinions about the situation. This not only fosters personal responsibility but also helps in avoiding blame or accusations. Expressing emotions openly lays the foundation for honest and authentic dialogue. For example, you can say “I am feeling very overwhelmed because I don’t feel like I have a good system in place.” Do not assume that the other person knows what it is that you are feeling. Use your words to relay your feelings without being rude.
A – Assert
During this step, you state exactly what it is that you need and want from the other person. Keep it short and direct as you do not want to confuse or complicate the person you are requesting something from. Never assume the person intuitively knows what your need and want is, even when it may seem obvious to you. Assertiveness is not about being aggressive, but rather about confidently expressing oneself while respecting the boundaries of others. It empowers individuals to communicate their desires and expectations effectively. For example, “I would like to request a more fair distribution of tasks within the team. This would contribute to a more balanced workload and enhance overall team efficiency.”
R – Reinforce
Reinforce why it is important for you to get what you are asking for. During this step, individuals are encouraged to explain the positive effects or consequences of meeting their needs. Here, the individual reminds the person how their request may benefit everyone, or what will happen if they do not get what they are asking for. By highlighting the benefits, they provide a rationale for the other person to consider, fostering a sense of collaboration. Reinforcement helps create a shared vision of positive outcomes. For example, “by ensuring a fair distribution of tasks, we can optimize each team member’s strengths and contribute more effectively to the project’s success. It will foster a collaborative environment and prevent burnout.”
M – Mindful
Practicing mindfulness during communication involves staying fully present in the moment. This means avoiding distractions, staying focused on the conversation at hand, and managing emotional reactions. Try to stay on topic. If you notice yourself becoming tangential, simply bring yourself back to the original conversation. Mindful communication enhances clarity and understanding, reducing the likelihood of miscommunication. For example, “I want to approach this discussion with an open mind, staying focused on finding a solution that benefits both the team and me.”
A – Appear Confident
Confidence is a non-verbal aspect of communication that significantly influences how a message is received. In DEARMAN, individuals are encouraged to appear confident by maintaining eye contact, using a steady tone of voice, and displaying open, inviting, and assertive body language. Try to stay composed and keep an open posture. Confidence reinforces the sincerity and validity of the message. Even if you do not wholeheartedly feel confident on the inside, act as if you are. The more you practice, the easier it will become, and more natural it will feel. For example, “I believe that addressing this concern will contribute to a more positive and productive team dynamic. I appreciate your attention to this matter.”
N – Negotiate
Negotiate is the final step in the DEARMAN skill, and involves finding common ground. Keep in mind that you are not demanding anything, rather making a request. If your request is not taken into consideration, try to make changes with the other person in mind. Remember that sometimes you have to give in order to then get. Being open to compromise and working together to find a solution that satisfies both parties is essential. Negotiation requires flexibility and a willingness to consider alternative perspectives, fostering a collaborative approach to problem-solving. For example, “I’m open to discussing how we can achieve a more balanced workload. Whether it involves reassigning tasks or adjusting our team’s workflow, I’m willing to collaborate on finding a solution that works for everyone.”
In conclusion, applying DEARMAN in real-life scenarios empowers individuals to communicate assertively and collaboratively. This skill promotes understanding, strengthens relationships, and fosters a culture of open communication and problem-solving. Consistent use of DEARMAN can lead to positive outcomes and contribute to a healthier and more effective interpersonal dynamic. Next time you notice yourself struggling to have your needs met, give this skill a try.