How to ask for what you need
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
DEAR MAN is a skill based in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). DBT has been found to be one of the most successful treatments for Emotionally-Unstable Personality Disorder (also commonly known as Borderline Personality Disorder).
While this skill is used in DBT, it is a useful skill for anyone who feels that they want to develop their confidence in communicating their needs or wants in relationships. Having healthy relationships has a massive impact on our mental health and wellbeing. However, it’s not always easy for us to share our needs in relationships effectively. We often believe that others should "just know’’ how to meet our needs and this can leave us feeling unfulfilled and ignored, and has a negative impact on the quality and long-term happiness within our relationships.
DEAR MAN encourages us to cultivate openness, honesty, and respect in our interactions and increase the likelihood of having our needs met. REMEMBER that we can't always get what we want or need even if we feel we have communicated this as effectively as possible.
DESCRIBE -what you need in a clear and concise way.
EXPRESS- Show your emotions in a way that communicates the importance of your request (whether that be facial expressions, gestures etc). This can be difficult if we find that our emotions are overwhelming, but we are more likely to communicate effectively if we don’t become too consumed by them.
ASSERT- Get your message across without becoming aggressive or passive aggressive.
REINFORCE- Explain why your request is really important to you and explain the positive outcomes of the request. Be careful not to make promises that you can’t keep or offer excessive rewards for compliance. People like to feel that they want to do things and are usually more happy to comply when they don’t feel they are being forced.
MINDFUL- People don’t always react in the way we hope, but take ownership of your behaviour. Don’t mirror aggressiveness or become defensive as this can cause the communication to take a turn for the worst.
APPEAR CONFIDENT- You have recognised what you need and if you believe what you are saying- others are more likely to receive the message well.
NEGOTIATE- We need to consider other people’s needs and boundaries. Practice being willing to negotiate and meet halfway.
Using this structure to communicate what you need might feel excessive, but it is useful to consider all of these aspects when you want to get your message across in the best way possible. No matter the outcome, you've handled it in a mature and self-aware way. Many people actually write out a 'DEAR MAN script' using the structure above, for situations that are particularly emotional or when you need to have an important conversation with someone who you have a difficult history with.
DEAR MAN makes a difference!