Communication is everywhere and forms an important part of our day-to-day lives. It helps us to express our ideas, thoughts, feelings and needs while understanding those of others. We, on average, speak around 16,000 words every single day! Clearly, communication is an indispensable component of life, be it in a personal or professional setting. Being able to effectively communicate is a critical and essential skill that can enhance our lives and our relationships. But it isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone, which can cause some issues in life. In this blog, I will explain the tool ‘Dear Man’, which you can use to help support you with effective communication.
Effects of poor communication
Communication forms the basis of all interactions and relationships with other people. Therefore, if you have problems with communicating, it can have a significant impact on your mental health and well-being. For example, communication problems in romantic relationships can lead to frequent conflict and tension at home. Whereas finding it difficult to be assertive and express your own needs effectively, may lead to you often going over your limits, and as a result, feeling stressed or unsatisfied. Good communication skills can help you to navigate your everyday life more smoothly, and enhance your connection and understanding with others.
DEAR MAN is a tool for effective communication developed by Marsha Linehan as part of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). By using this skill you can learn to express yourself, your needs and your wants in an effective, respectful and healthy way.
To learn this skill it is important to understand what each part of the acronym DEAR MAN means:
- Describe: Describe the situation as objectively and clearly as possible. Describe it as if you were watching a film. Try to leave out interpretations or opinions in this part.
Example: I woke up this morning and I saw that last night’s dishes were still dirty all over the kitchen.
- Express: Explaining and expressing to others how this made you feel. Try to speak from an ‘I’ perspective and avoid blaming. This will help the other person not be defensive.
Example: When I saw this I felt overwhelmed and disappointed by the extra work.
- Assert: This means to express your wants or needs in a clear and strong way, whether it is a request or saying ‘no’. Try to be explicit and specific.
Example: I would really like it if you could make sure you clean the kitchen after yourself before you go to bed.
- Reinforce: Reward or reinforce the person for complying with your request. Reinforcing the request can let the other person know what is in it for them as well. This doesn’t always have to be a tangible reward; you can also show how it might make something easier for them.
Example: This would really help me to be less irritable with you in the mornings, and improve our relationship.
- Mindful: Mindful in this context refers to staying focused and on the topic until you have reached a resolution. This means keeping the conversation going in the right direction without digging up old bones, even if the person is acting defensive.
- Appear confident: This means to present yourself confidently. Use body language to show your confidence even if you don’t feel it. Stand or sit up straight, make eye contact and speak clearly!
- Negotiate: You may have to alter your request. Be aware of your own limits and what you are willing to compromise. But, remember that you are making a request, not a demand and be open to negotiation. Take your own, as well as the other person’s needs into account.
Give it a try!
DEAR MAN is a skill you can use to make difficult interactions or conversations a little easier and more effective. It can really help to write out each step clearly. Try practising it in the mirror or in a role-play situation with someone else before having the conversation in real life. You’ll see that it gets easier with practice!