The acronym DEAR MAN stands for:
- Describe the current situation
- Express your feelings
- Assert yourself
- stay Mindful
- Appear confident
Make sure you have a clear goal in sight to use for DEAR MAN. You must know what you want. The clearer your goal in your head is, the clearer your argument will be. To determine what you want or need, consider your priorities against the demands on your time. If you feel overwhelmed, put off low-priority demands. Also balance your “wants” against your “shoulds.” Consider if you’re doing something just because you feel you should. Say no to things you don’t want to do.
Finally, ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to do everything yourself even if you feel alone. You can use DEAR MAN to ask someone for help.
Here are some potential goals you might have:
- Standing up for your rights in such a way that they are taken seriously
- Requesting something from others in such a way that they do it
- Refusing unwanted or unreasonable requests and making the refusal stick
- Resolving interpersonal conflict
- Getting your opinion/point of view taken seriously
It is important to remember that no one is able to get everything they want from others all of the time. Some environments are impervious to even the most skilled individuals. Increased interpersonal skills will increase your probability of getting your objectives met, but they are not a guarantee. In situations where it is impossible to get what you want, distress tolerance skills and radical acceptance become important to use.
Describe the situation aloud to the person you’re asking. State only facts. That means no judgments about the situation, who caused it, and whether it’s good or bad.
Express how you are feeling about the situation. Avoid blame by using “I” statements. It’s easy to assume that the other person knows how you feel but that’s usually not the case. This is your opportunity to tell them openly and honestly how you feel.
Assert yourself by asking for what you want or need. Be clear and direct so there’s no room for misinterpretation. Your DEAR MAN also might be saying no to a request, and this is your place to do so. Don’t assume the other person can read your mind.
Reinforce that there will be a positive outcome of your request or a negative outcome if you’re saying no. Be sure to deliver the reward after the fact if there is one. This is important because it helps people respond more positively to your request or rejection.
Be Mindful of your goal. Don’t let yourself get distracted or swayed by the conversation. Be a broken record if you feel the person isn’t listening to you. Repeat yourself calmly and evenly. If the other person becomes hostile, ignore their attacks. Focus on making your point without letting the other person draw you off track.
Appear confident, effective, and in charge. Use a confident tone and sure body language. That means no whispering, staring at the floor, or wringing your hands. Stand tall, make eye contact, and speak your truth without qualifications like ‘maybe’ or ‘I’m not sure.’
Be confident but also be flexible. Be willing to give in order to get. Offer alternative solutions in order to get closer to what you want. Reduce your request if necessary. Focus on your goal but be practical about what will work. Turn the tables and ask the other person for solutions to the problem.
If the discussion becomes toxic, it’s sometimes necessary to do a DEAR MAN within the original DEAR MAN to address the new situation. Describe what the person is doing that is disrupting your discussion. Maybe they are refusing to take no for an answer or resorting to attacks. Express how the situation is making you feel. Assert how you would like it to change. Maybe ask to continue the discussion later. Reinforce your assertion. Remind them that you aren’t going to change your mind. Do all this confidently and mindfully.
<p”>Write out your DEAR MAN in advance. Practice it on a trusted friend. Note which parts of the acronym are most difficult and spend extra time on those. Make sure you feel comfortable with your script and can relay it well. Try to be in Wise Mind when you bring your request or rejection to the table. It will help you stay emotionally stable and focused.</p”>
Let’s walk through a DEAR MAN conversation to give you a feel for what it looks like.
Say you want to renegotiate who takes out the trash at home. Perhaps you don’t want to do the task anymore. Imagine a conversation with your partner, parent, child, or roommate.
Describe: I have been taking out the trash weekly since we moved in together.
Express: I don’t like doing it. The dust in the trash room aggravates my allergies and I have trouble swinging the heavy bag into the dumpster.
Assert: I don’t want to take the trash out anymore.
Reinforce: I know I don’t take it out as often as you’d like. If you take it out, it would get done to your liking.
Stay Mindful: *repeat yourself if need be, focus on making your point*
Appear Confident: *make eye contact, state your point confidently without conceding*
Negotiate: I am happy to do another chore instead of taking the trash out. How about I trade you for cleaning the bathroom? That won’t make me sneeze and is more to my ability-level.
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