Updated: May 25, 2020
Chances are, you’re no stranger to workplace conflict. If you’ve ever had your opinions ignored
by a supervisor, argued with a coworker over deadlines, or gotten into an argument over who
took the last yogurt, you could probably benefit from DBT’s second skill module, Interpersonal
This module teaches skills that are invaluable to running a successful organization, such as how
to assert needs, how to uphold boundaries, how to relieve aversive environments, and how to
resolve conflict. A particularly useful and easy-to-learn skill that assists individuals in making
respectful requests and negotiating compromise is called DEAR MAN. This tool is a behavioral
strategy that makes it more likely to get what you want from other people, and no, it’s not a Jedi
There are seven steps to an effective DEAR MAN, but before you begin, it’s important to
identify the result you want to achieve, how you want the other person to feel about you, and
how you want to feel about yourself. Keeping these in mind will make sure you are presenting
the best case possible while still maintaining your values. Each letter in the acronym represents
its own sub-skill, and if you are able to implement them, you’ll be able to have difficult
conversations with ease.
Describe the situation in a simple way stating only the facts, which helps the other person
understand the circumstances of the problem and your request.
Let’s look at an example. Imagine confronting a coworker because she keeps interrupting
you during meetings. You might say, “It has happened three times this week that you
interrupt me when I am sharing my thoughts during our lunch meetings.”
Express your feelings using “I” statements, which lets you take accountability prevents the other
person from reverting to the defensive.
Rather than exploding in anger, try: “It makes me feel like you don’t care what I have to
say, which makes me feel like my input isn’t valued.”
Assert your needs by saying “no” or asking for what you want in a clear way. This is helpful
because no one is a mind reader!
You might request, “I would like you to let me share fully in these meetings without
Reinforce by letting the other person know how your request will benefit them, too.
Relationships are built on reciprocity, after all!
This might look like, “I believe I have some great ideas for our team, and I think we
would benefit if I were able to share them. I would also be less grumpy at my desk and
less short with our employees if I felt like my voice were being heard.”
The second part of the acronym, MAN, advises us in the best manner to go about making these
Mindfully focus on the conversation. Try not to become distracted!
Appear confident by making eye contact, keeping your head up, standing straight, and speaking
clearly. Your confidence will make it harder to say no!
Negotiate. You’re not making any demands; you’re asking for something. Sometimes, you might
have to alter your request to make it more appealing to the other person. Listening to and
accommodating each other will show that you respect their opinions and feelings, too.
Pretty easy, right?
You’ll be surprised at how effective a DEAR MAN can be!
Mastering this and other Interpersonal Effectiveness skills will help you to avoid intense
confrontation, problem-solve, initiate change in the environment, and meet your personal work
goals. They will also enable you to assess your priorities, consider long and short-term needs,
maintain self-respect, and make requests of others in a way that actually gets results.
Stay tuned for more IE skills!