The following is a synopsis of a weekly Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group lesson, based on the work of Marsha Linehan out of the University of Washington. This week’s lesson is actually outside of the normal DBT content, it is solely based on the codependency literature, specifically the work of a wonderful fellowship called CODA.

New Disclaimer: I LOVE doing this, I think it is desperately needed, and I WANT to do it. However, I have zero time to do it so, while I am committed to giving it my all, I may fall behind or skip a week or two. I apologize in advance for that, and for the fact that I will not be spell checking, fixing formatting, or doing a read through before I post. No offense, but I gotta draw the line somewhere!

Interpersonal Skills Module: Asking and Saying “No”; The Final Chapter

The final lesson in this module includes a super valuable and interesting tool for helping us know whether or not we should ask someone for something, or say “no” to a request. Many of us struggle with this, saying “yes” to whatever is asked of us, and/or never asking for help because of myths that interfere with us. So, other than considering what our priorities are in a conflict (OBJECTIVE, RELATIONSHIP, SELF RESPECT), we then need to consider each of the following 9 areas, one by one, to determine whether to ask or say no to something.

  1. Capability: Do I have what the other person wants? If so then I give myself one point toward a yes.
  2. Timeliness: Is it a good time to ask? If so then I can give myself another point to say “yes”
  3. Homework: Am I prepared with all the information I need to answer any questions the person may have? If so you are now up to 3 “Yesses”
  4. Authority: Is what the person does my business? Am I authority over them like their teacher, parent, boss, etc? If so, we have 4 Yesses”.
  5. Rights: Is the person required by law or moral code to give me what I want? (ex. a parent is required to give their child meals, but not required to give them lobster).
  6. Relationship: Is the request appropriate to our current relationship? (ex. it’s appropriate to ask my friend to give me a ride, but maybe not if the last time I spoke to her she wrote me off for being too needy). If it’s appropriate, count another “Yes”
  7. Reciprocity: Am I asking less than I give? Do I give as much or more to this person? If so count another “Yes”
  8. Goals: Is asking for this important to a long term goal? (ex. I need to ask my husband to fix more things around the house so that we are more responsible and the value of our house goes up).
  9. Respect: Am I careful to do things for myself when i can, and to avoid using or over-extending people? If so, count up another “Yes”

According to the table at the end of this blog*, if I count up 9 “Yesses” I should “Ask and Dont take No for an answer”. If I only count 1 Yes, then I should not ask, and not even hint at it. The same logic applies to the “Saying No” side:

  1. Capability: Do I have what the person wants? (Do I have a car to give the person the ride?) If NO, count 1 toward saying NO. If yes, move to the next one, we are counting “No”s on this side.
  2. Timeliness: Is it a bad time for me to say No? (ex. my Mom asks me to clean up and I just got in trouble for sneaking out. Bad time…). If no, count it.
  3. Homework: Is the request clear? Do I fully understand what is being asked of me?  If NOT you count this as a “No”
  4. Authority: Is the person an authority over me like their teacher, parent, boss, etc? If NOT, count another “No”
  5. Rights: Does saying “No” violate the person’s rights or go against my morals? (ex. I believe in offering emotional support to friends in need, so saying no to this person’s request to talk is against my values)….Count a No if this is NOT the case.
  6. Relationship: Is the request appropriate to our current relationship? (ex. it’s not appropriate for my boss to ask me out on a date). If it’s NOT appropriate, count another “No”
  7. Reciprocity: Does the person give me a lot? Do I owe the person? If you don’t owe a favor, count another “No”
  8. Goals: Does saying “No” interfere with a long term goal of mine? (ex. If I say No, I would be standing up for myself and putting myself first, so this is a “No”).
  9. Respect: Does my wise mind (my gut instinct) say “Yes, do this for the person?” If NO than we count this last “No”According to the table at the end of this blog*, if I count up 9 “No’s” I should “NOT DO IT”. If I only count 1 No, then I should Do what the other person wants or needs without even being asked. Keep in mind that we have to use good judgement and our wise mind as well as this table. For example, if I ask someone out on a date, and I have a score of “9” that says that I should ask, I cannot insist that the person go out with me and force them to do it! But, if we use this table in a wise mind way, it’s super helpful for allowing us to make a solid choice. Also, a senior group member brought up a great point about the details in the table, noting that it is passive aggressive to hint indirectly about something we want. I completely agree, but we can do this in a respectful way, so as not to come on too strong, as long as we are mindful about what we are doing and why. If we really want to avoid this, that is great too, so we can skip a couple of rows and pick what fits us best.
ASK? Intensity SAY NO?
Don’t ask, Don’t Hint 1 Do what the other person wants without being asked
Hint indirectly, take no 2 Don’t complain, do it cheerfully
Hint openly, take no 3 Do it even if you’re not cheerful about it
Ask tentatively, take no 4 Do it, but show that you’d rather not
Ask gracefully, take no 5 Say youd rather not, but do it gracefully
Ask confidently, take no 6 Say no confidently but reconsider
Ask firmly, resist no 7 Say no firmly, resist saying yes
Ask firmly, insist, negotiate, keep trying 8 Say no firmly, resist, negotiate, keep trying
Ask and don’t take no for an answer 9 Don’t do it

*Table modified a bit to make it more simple to understand and teach. Those who want a deeper discussion of the original table can contact me for more information.