Of the four modules of DB, this one can have the most impact on our lives. Interpersonal effectiveness teaches us how to interact with others in such a way that we get what we want. And importantly- that we have self-respect afterwards. This module also includes skills on how to make friends (and keep them) and how to handle conflict.
I find this an intriguing module, and it in fact illustrates how DBT shines and can improve our lives dramatically. For many people it comes naturally and easy to handle their relationships effectively, but for many of us it does not. And even if you are introverted and might try to convince yourself that you can be fine on your own, we are all social beings. It has been well documented that people who have healthy social lives (e.g., live in and interacts with others in a community) live longer. So, let DBT give us some guidelines how to make our relationships easy and rewarding- the way it was intended to be.
Goals of Interpersonal effectiveness
1. Be skillful in achieving objectives with others. This means:
• Know how to ask others to do things
• Say no to unwanted requests
2. Build relationships, strengthen current relationships, and end destructive ones. Skills for relationships include skills for doing these things:
• Not letting hurts and problems heap up
• Heading off problems
• Repairing relationships (or ending them if necessary)
• Resolving conflicts before they get overwhelming
3. Walk the middle path. This means:
• Keeping relationships requires balancing our own priorities with the demands of others
• Balance change with acceptance
DBT also spends some time looking at what are the factors that reduce Interpersonal effectiveness:
• Lack of skills
• Indecision- sometimes we have the skills, but we do not know what we really want
• Letting our emotions interfere
• Prioritizing short term goals over long term goals- e.g., we do not think about the consequences
• Interference from the environment. The environment can be powerful, meaning someone in a higher position of power can refuse to give you what you want.
• Interpersonal myths. Some people have worries about standing up for themselves.
• And lastly, often there are a number of these factors at play.
Here is a PDF explaining the DBT DEAR MAN GIVE FAST SKILLS. Have a look- it is really handy!
To conclude; here are some other interesting ideas that we explore when we use DBT to help us with relationships:
It is extremely important to know exactly what result you want from the interaction. The clearer you know what outcome you want, the easier it is to get closer to it.
Bear in mind how you want the other person to feel about you after the interaction is over. Some of us might be overly concerned with being liked, this might need more individual therapy.
Subverting personal needs in a relationship does not work over the long term. This means that it might feel right in the moment to sacrifice your own needs to keep the peace, but long term it will not work. Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, is very adamant about this statement (and we all agree she knows what she is talking about!)
Consider self-respect. It can help to think of self-resect as a major goal. However, “winning” on face level is not always the best outcome. The important thing is not to “sell out” your soul, and this might mean different things for all of us.
This concludes our series on DBT.
To read the other three modules click on the links below;