DEAR MAN is a mnemonic (a mnemonic is something such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something), and stands for:
- Express feelings
- Assert wishes
- Appear Confident
The DEAR MAN skill will help us to develop more effective relationships with others, in a way that helps us get our needs met, be treated with respect, and develop better interpersonal communication.
The first part of learning this skills is about learning to describe the situation you are in. Most times, we allow our emotions to lead us, an react based on how we feel. The ‘describe’ skill is about sticking to the shared facts between you and the other person. For example, you have been invited to dinner with a few family members and may describe the situation thus:
In two weeks I am going to dinner with my aunt and uncle, mum and dad, and my brother. We are going to an Italian restaurant. We haven’t seen each other in a few weeks.
After stating the facts, you can then express how you feel. It’s important to state the facts first, so you can react accordingly rather than letting your emotions drive you. When expressing how you feel, it’s important to express your own feelings but remember you can’t make assumptions of how other people may feel. Be clear, and stick to the core of how you feel.
This is where you ask for what you need. You have described what is happening, and how you feel, and here is where you get to be very clear on what you are asking for. The most effective way to do this is to ask a clear question with a yes or no answer. By being clear and direct, you are asserting your needs in a way that respects you and the other person, and avoids any confusion or upset if your needs are not met.
This is about explainig the positive effects of having your needs met, and can also be used to clarify any negative effects if your needs are not met. This is a chance to pause a moment and consider your needs, and also to think about the other person and how meeting your needs affects them. Again, it’s important to be clear when stating how your needs being met with benefit you.
As we know, the four key skills in DBT work alongside each other, and being mindful is an important part of being and staying well.
It is easy for us to get distracted in the DEAR MAN process, follow our emotions or perhaps getting inadvertently distracted by the other person in the process. It’s important for us to use the one-mindful skills from the last module to focus on this one thing, and be mindful of ourselves and others.
We have all heard phrases like ‘fake it til you make it’ and ‘imposter syndrome’. In the DEAR MAN process, it’s important to appear confident, even if you don’t feel it at first. Being able to calmly and confidently express the facts of the situation, how we feel about it, and what we need is important. Appearing confident – by sitting up straight, making eye contact, speaking clearly and keeping your shoulders back – will actually make you feel more confident in the moment.
Before you begin the DEAR MAN process, take a moment to imagine what it would feel like if you asked to have your needs met, and the other person said no.
In the moment, you may feel upset, distressed or angry, and may react in the moment. This can cause conflict, harm your self-confidence or respect, and may end the conversation you have worked so hard on.
By preparing a negotiation mentally in advance, you can think about what skills you will need to stay calm in the midst of the situation, and how you can calmly make a different ask.