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  • Monika La Nuez, LCSW

The DBT DEARMAN Skill: How to Get Your Needs Met Effectively


DBT DEARMAN Skill Couples therapy Boca Raton fl


Do you often find it difficult to ask for what you want or to assert your needs to others? Do you find that as a result, you often feel unseen, minimized, and neglected in your relationships? If so, I want to validate how common it is to struggle with figuring out how to best get your needs met. Asking for what you want can feel vulnerable and tricky. Or perhaps you’ve internalized the message along the way that asking for help is weak and feeble. Maybe you’ve found that when you’ve tried asserting your needs, you end up in an argument or the conversation ends up wandering to other issues, leading to no resolution and your needs falling to the wayside. 


DBT Therapy focuses one of its four skills modules on the subject of interpersonal effectiveness, which is the ability to handle interactions with other people in your life in ways that feel productive, beneficial, and rewarding. One of the hallmark skills that helps people get what they want is the DBT DEARMAN skill. This skill is designed to help you be as effective as possible in asserting your needs or asking for what you want. The DEARMAN acronym is also an easy way to recollect each step within the skill, so that you have ready access to implementing this skill when needed.


 In this post, I want to review each step within the DEARMAN skill to help you get a better sense of how to use this skill with other people in your life, be it family members, friends, co-workers, or relationship partners. Here are the steps:


Describe

Describe the facts of the situation. Do not express judgment or your interpretations of the situation. Stick to the observable, tangible facts and evidence about the situation or event.


Example: "We have been spending less time together lately. We haven’t been on a date night in six months and we’ve stopped our regular weekly movie nights." 


Express

Express how your current situation makes you feel emotionally. Here is where you can express how a certain situation made you feel hurt, ignored, or angry. Be sure to stick to “I feel” statements rather than “you” statements.


Example: "I feel lonely and distant from you. I miss spending time together and having quality time together. I don't feel as connected as we used to."


Assert

Assert your need. Be concise and specific. This is the meat and potatoes of the DEARMAN skill, the reason you are utilizing each step of this skill in the first place.  One reason people struggle with getting their needs met is that their request may be too vague or may get lost in other parts of the conversation they are having with another person, so focus on being specific and clear.


Example: "I’d like for us to schedule our monthly date nights and weekly movie nights back on the calendar."


Reinforce

Reinforce to the other person why making these changes would also benefit them. Provide feedback on how making the requested change will improve various aspects of this person’s life as well as the relationship. 


Example: "I think that if we get back to our date and movie nights, you and I will both feel closer and happier, and it will lighten the mood in our relationship and our home."


(be) Mindful

Be mindful about staying focused on the topic at hand. Stay focused on your assertion or request. Ignore attacks or attempts to redirect from your request.


One other helpful aspect of remaining mindful when asking for what you want is the concept of the “Broken Record.” DEARMAN conversations tend to be uncomfortable since you are asking for something that you’re currently not receiving from another person. As a result, these kinds of conversations can often devolve into tangents or other topics, where your original request gets lost in the shuffle. By staying mindful, you remain focused on your request and act as a “broken record” by bringing the conversation back to your assertion or request, over and over, if need be.


Example: "I know you want to talk about how busy work is right now,, and I want to give you time to talk about that sometime very soon, but for this conversation, I want to focus on how we can get back to our date and movie nights."


Appear Confident

Something that can get in the way of your request being met is not being taken seriously by the other parties involved.  If you appear scared, nervous, or timid when asking for what you want, there is less of a chance that you will be heard and that your request will be taken seriously. Note, the skill states to APPEAR confident. The DEARMAN skill acknowledges that you may feel nervous or scared as you ask for what you want AND you can practice and rehearse ways in which to appear confident, secure, and assertive by focusing on your tone of voice, body language, and presence. You may also want to couple the DEARMAN skill with the Cope Ahead skill, as a way of practicing how to appear confident prior to a difficult conversation. 


Example: Use a calm but assertive tone of voice, stand or sit up straight, maintain eye contact.


Negotiate

It is certainly possible that another person may still not want to meet your request even after effectively asking for what you want. This is where negotiating with the other person can be useful. You can negotiate by offering a compromise, or middle ground, between your needs and the other person’s, or you can invite the other person to suggest some possible solutions or ways to meet your needs. 


Example: "Hmm, it seems like what I’m proposing sounds difficult for us to implement right now. Maybe we try for a date night every two months and a movie night every two weeks?"


"What do you think could work? What do you propose?"


Final Thoughts

The DEARMAN Skill is a tool I often discuss with clients in individual, family, and couples therapy. So many people have shared that having an organized and structured approach for asking for what they want has been life-changing. The DEARMAN skill is so powerful because it helps streamline conversations that can often feel uncomfortable, difficult, and overwhelming. I invite you to begin practicing this skill in situations at work, with friends, family members, and relationship partners. I hope you get to experience the benefits of being able to clearly express and assert your needs, and have your needs and wishes met with regularity. 



Seeking individual therapy, couples therapy, or DBT therapy in Boca Raton, FL? Feel free to reach out to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation, and see how I can help you with your mental health, therapy, and relationship goals. Call me at 917-843-7803 or at therapy@monikalanuezlcsw.com

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