In an earlier post, ‘DBT: The Skills’, DEAR MAN is used in objectiveness effectiveness as part of interpersonal effectiveness. Interpersonal effectiveness is described as the ability to increase the changes that will help you reach the outcome you are looking for in a specific situation, while not hurting the relationship you have with others or losing self-respect.
DEAR MAN is useful in situations in which you are asking for what you want or refusing a request from someone else. It is also useful for those with depression or mental illness because it is an effective way to communicate your emotions, your wishes and desires and allow you to negotiate a possibly tenuous situation.
DEAR MAN stands for:
Describe the current situation. Tell the person exactly what you are reacting to and stick to the facts. By doing this, you are making clear your perception of the situation but you aren’t coloring it with your feelings, but sticking only to the facts.
Express your feelings and opinions about the situation. Assume that others cannot read your mind and know how you feel. Don’t expect others to know how hard it is for you to ask directly for what you want or to refuse. Use ‘I want’ or ‘I don’t want’ statements instead of ‘I need’, or ‘you should’.
Assert yourself. Ask for what you want or say no clearly. Assume that others will not figure out what you want unless you ask. Don’t assume that others can read minds. And don’t expect others to know how hard it is for you to ask directly for what you want.
Reinforce the person ahead of time by explaining the consequences or the reward. Tell the person the positive effects of getting what you want or need. Also tell the person, if necessary, the negative effects of getting what you want or need. Help the person feel good ahead of time for doing or accepting what you want.
Mindfully keep your focus on your objectives. Maintain your position and don’t be distracted. Keep asking, or keep saying no, if necessary, express your opinion over and over, rewording but staying on point. Ignore the person if they attack, threaten, or try to change the subject and ignore any attempt to divert you from your goal. Don’t respond to attacks and just keep making your point!
Appear confident by using a confident tone and physical manner; make good eye contact. Appear effective and confident. Don’t stammer, whisper, stare at the floor, retreat or say things like ‘I’m not sure’ etc.
Negotiate by being willing to give to get. Maintain your point, but offer and ask for alternative solutions to the problem and ask what the other person is willing to do to fix the problem. Stick to simple things and make your goals realistic. Focus on what will work. What am I willing to ‘settle for’ or ‘give up’ in order to gain what I want in the situation?
Sometimes it helps to write out DEAR MAN for specific situations so you know what to say and how to say it. A more simplified version of DEAR MAN is: “I feel ______ when you ________. I want _______.”
Using ‘I feel’ and ‘I want’ can be difficult, but by phrasing your requests in this manner, you are refraining from accusations which can make people feel attacked.
I have also attached a form that can help you use DEAR MAN in real life situations.