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: DEAR MAN, GIVE & FAST

Last week’s model, priorities in conflict, allows us to decide what the focus of resolving a conflict should be. This week we introduced the first of 3 corresponding skills, dependent upon what we determine the priority to be. The best way to explain this model is by applying an example and changing it for each different priority:

Let’s say that you have been working part-time at a place for 2 years and you haven’t gotten a raise. You are a good worker and you like the job, but you aren’t sure why you haven’t gotten a raise like some other employees have, and you feel you deserve one so you want to ask for one.

In this scenario, the Objective of asking for a raise is the most important priority. The relationship with our boss is very important, but in this situation it is not more important than this objective. our third priority, self-respect is also very important, but if we approach this correctly then we will get our objective met while maintaining our self respect, so the Objective is again the most important (our self-respect is not being attacked here, as far as we know). So need to use the DEAR MAN skill:

Describe the Situation: “Hey Boss, thank’s for talking with me, as you know I have been here 2 years and I really like my job and the people, and I’m grateful for everything you have done for me to help me be successful here”

Express how we feel about it: “But I’m frustrated because I haven’t gotten a raise in those 2 years, and I try really hard to have a good work ethic and do my job the best I can.”

Assert ourselves:”So I would really like to know why I haven’t gotten one, and if I could be evaluated for a raise if possible.”

Reinforce why it would be a good idea to give you what you want: “I’m afraid if I don’t get a raise that I will start to get discouraged and that my work will suffer or I will start to be very unhappy here.”

(stay) Mindful of the topic at hand: This is a very important way to help us get our goal, as many times we give up having this discussion when the person pushes back, argues, or takes us off track by bringing up irrelevant, emotional, or confusing things that veer us away from our objective. Remember, the OBJECTIVE is the most important thing here, so we need to keep our focus on that by using:

  • Broken Record Technique: I LOVE this for helping me avoid getting into escalating conflicts or for helping me avoid feeling angry or guilty about things other than my main focus. The broken record technique means that we say the same thing again and again, or similar to things to move closer to our goal. For example,
    • “I just think that it is time I have a raise”, “I am not sure what this has to do with what we are talking about, I am simply trying to ask you for a raise”
  • Ignore Attacks: Similar to using the broken record technique, we want to stay on track by ignoring passive aggressive comments, attacks on our character, reminders about our past mistakes, etc. This way, we can stay focused on the goal rather than getting sidetracked. In this scenario, it is relevant to discuss our past work history within reason, but if the boss points out a negative behavior of ours from over a year ago, we do not want to entertain that discussion or let that make us feel guilty for asking.

Appear confident: This goes along with our assertive statement, reminding us to watch our tone of voice, body language, facial expression, etc. (see blog about assertiveness a few weeks back).

Negotiate: Be willing, and look for opportunities to compromise. In order to get what we want, sometimes we have to bargain with someone, or give something up. An example of this here would be to say, “If you give me a raise, I may be willing to take on a few more responsibilities if there is something you need done that I can help with.”

Now, let’s take the same example but change it a bit, so that the objective is no longer the most important priority:

Let’s say that you have been working part-time at a place for 2 years and you haven’t gotten a raise. You are a good worker and you like the job, but you aren’t sure why you haven’t gotten a raise like some other employees have, and you feel you deserve one so you go to ask for one, using the DEAR MAN. As you are doing a great job asserting yourself appropriately and respectfully, your boss starts getting very angry, walks out to the front of the place and in front of many of your peers he screams, “You’re being a pain in the ass, you don’t deserve a raise, you’re a lazy, stupid, horrible employee and you suck at your job so get out of my office and go do what I pay you for.”

NOW, SELF-RESPECT has become our top priority (unless we absolutely cannot lose our job, in which case we may need to just deal with it and look for something else rather than taking the risk of losing our job).In this scenario we will use the FAST:

(be) Fair: Start out by giving the person the benefit of the doubt, pointing out something that he may be struggling with, etc. in order to be somewhat cautious and not going in “guns ablazing”….It’s possible that we are wrong, and people are also fallible so we need to be careful to not permanently damage the relationship and to keep compassion and empathy for others WHILE we set a limit. Like this, “Look boss, I know you are under a lot of pressure right now……..”

(make no) Apologies: ….BUT we are not going to give them that as an excuse, let them off the hook, or apologize for anything if we aren’t doing anything wrong. That being said, if you feel you are part of the problem and you want to throw in an apology, that can be ok, but we don’t want to OVER apologize, or make it about the other person being a victim. For example, you may say, “I know that I always keep my mouth shut when you blow up on me, but I am not comfortable being spoken to like that…”

Stick to our values: Here is where we don’t want the other person to talk us out of our feelings, beliefs, values, etc. If the person tries to make you feel bad for speaking up, tries to invalidate your feelings by making you feel like you are over-reacting, tries to avoid responsibility by changing the subject, etc.; we will stand firm, maybe even use the broken record technique to reinforce that we mean what we say, and stick to what we believe is right.

(be) Truthful: The last part of the FAST is to avoid acting helpless, lying, or exaggerating. If we stoop to this level, we are automatically taking away from our self respect, which defeats the purpose of doing a FAST. So we need to honestly tell the person what we think and feel and why, and avoid laying a guilt trip or making an empty threat (ex. avoid saying, “I’m having panic attacks all day long because you are always yelling at me”, if it’s not true).

The final priority, the RELATIONSHIP, is important to consider sometimes, and when this is the most important priority, it is usually when we screwed up, we owe an amends, and the most important thing is not pride, not some goal, but repairing damage to our relationship, or keeping the relationship from suffering.

Let’s say that you have been working part-time at a place for 2 years and you haven’t gotten a raise. You are a good worker and you like the job, but you aren’t sure why you haven’t gotten a raise like some other employees have, and you feel you deserve one so you asked for one. Your boss acknowledges that you are a hard worker, but tells you that no part-timers can get raises, only full-timers, and he offers you a chance to go full time within the next 6 months. You get mad because you feel you are entitled to the raise, and you say, “well if i don’t get a raise I am going to find another job, I’m sick of working for nothing and I do more than anyone else around here, even you.” You quickly regret saying this, but it’s too late, you spoke out of emotion mind and now you can’t take it back. Use a GIVE:

(be) Gentle: YOU screwed up here, not your boss, or even if you feel the other person is half to blame, you have to focus on fixing the relationship, not being right. So use a low tone of voice, make soft eye contact, choose your words very carefully, and take responsibility for your actions.

(act) Interested: Notice the word “act” here. This doesn’t mean to pretend, it means to SHOW the person that you are interested. Put down the phone, ignore outside distractions, and give non-verbal body language that shows the person you are listening (nod your head, make eye contact, reflect back to the person what they say, etc.).

Validate: This will be covered in another blog in Emotion Regulation, but we need to let the person know that they are heard and understood. Even if you don’t agree with the boss, you can still sympathize with his need to follow the rules and let him know that you appreciate him and respect his authority.

(use an) Easy manner: If appropriate, use a little humor and self-deprecation (ex. “I’m a great employee but I suck at politics”). It’s ok to make a little joke, especially towards the end of the conversation to lighten the mood, and to remind the person that you are human, and that it’s a relief to forgive and move on. Be very careful not to invalidate or disrespect the person here, and if you aren’t sure how to do that you probably shouldn’t try to use this part. Practice it with your therapist to gain mastery, as the GIVE can really help us not just keep relationships, but strengthen them.

We will be using lots of examples next week in group and role playing how to apply these skills. Over time they become automatic, and you will naturally start to determine your priorities and know how to use your skills effectively.