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How To: Use DBT Skill DEARMAN to Communicate Effectively

Uncomfortable emotions and/or a general lack of skill to put thoughts and feelings into perspective- let alone words- often get in the way of communicating effectively. Not having the skills to communicate your wants/needs and set boundaries can leave you at increased risk for depression and anxiety, negatively impact your self-esteem, and degrade the quality of your relationships. Additionally, many of us struggle with simply saying “no” because you have been a “yes” person for so long and feel guilty about letting others down. Or maybe, hearing “no” or the possibility of hearing “no” stirs feelings of anxiety, disappointment, or even frustration you are not equipped to deal with. 

DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is an evidence-based practice which focuses on skill building in areas of emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness. DEARMAN is an acronym; and a tool taught under the interpersonal effectiveness module of DBT. Each letter in DEARMAN stands for a skill to communicate effectively.  As you practice implementing these skills, you will feel better prepared to navigate difficult situations and create positive outcomes through communication that is effective and goal-directed. 


DEAR (reminds us of what to say) MAN (reminds of of how to say)


Describe the situation/request in the simplest way using facts. 


Express how you are feeling about the situation using “I” language. Say “I feel…” when expressing your feelings for accountability and ownership. 


Assert yourself. This is where you simply ask for what you want/need or say “no.” Do not apologize for making a request or saying no. 


Reinforce the message you are conveying. Stand firm in your request or “no.” Be sure the other person understands how participating in this request or by you saying “no” helps you achieve interpersonal goals of: strengthening your relationship, setting/maintaining personal boundaries, or contribute to some kind of rewarding growth. 


Mindfulness of your tone and body language while communicating. Your words may convey one thing, while your tone and body language expresses a different message. Be mindful of facial expressions and eye contact. The key is alignment. 

Appear confident

Appear confident through upright posture and maintaining eye contact. You must believe you deserve to have your wants/needs met to be willing to receive. 


Negotiate with the other person. Remember you are not demanding, you are asking. You may need to compromise and find a solution that works for the both of you. 

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 832-421-8714.


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