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Interpersonal Effectiveness


Hi everyone, I decided to make this thread as a tool in interpersonal effectiveness for the community, particularly in light of our recent emphasis on open communication with one another in this community -- in order to make sure that we are understanding one another, showing empathy, appropriately making our individual thoughts and wishes known to one another, and in general helping the community be a welcoming and comforting place for those present.

As some of you may know, I am a physician by trade with particular emphasis on psychological well-being. Generally, I try to keep work as work, and leisure as leisure, and my role in this community has little to do with my work. However, I feel like if there was anything from my work that could help better the community that I am part of, my desires to have boundaries between work and leisure should not prevent me from providing tools to the community to assist in communication and interpersonal well-being.

The posts following this one will outline various skills and techniques that can be used to facilitate clear, assertive, yet non-aggressive communication between individuals. A good portion of it is drawn from the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy's interpersonal effectiveness module, and some portions are from other sources. Many of these resources are used across the US and the world to help people communicate with one another effectively. My hope is that they can also be tools in our interactions with one another in this community!

Without further ado, the tools in the following posts:

Communicating One's Needs

(Return to the intro post on this thread HERE)

One portion of the DBT module uses the acronym DEAR MAN to describe skills in communicating one's thoughts and desires and negotiating to fulfill them:

- Describe the situation when necessary - stick to facts and non-judgmental statements.
- "I've been working here for 2 years now and haven't received a raise, even though my performance reviews have always been positive"
- "This is the third time this week that you've asked me for a ride home."

- Express feelings/opinions about the situation clearly.
- Describe how you feel or what you believe about the situation.
- Don't expect the other person to read your mind or know how you feel give a brief reason for making your request.
- "I believe that I deserve a raise."
- "I'm getting home so late that it is really hard for me and my family. But I also really enjoy giving you rides home, and it is hard for me to say no."

- Assert your wishes.
- Ask for what you want.
- Say no clearly.
- Don't expect the other person to know what you want them to do if you don't tell them (don't expect them to mind read).
- Don't tell others what they "should" do.
- Don't beat around the bush...Just bite the bullet and ask, or say no
- "I would like a raise. Can you give it to me?
- "But I have to say no tonight. I can't give you a ride home so often."

- Reward the people who respond positively to you when you ask for something, say 'no', or express an opinion.
- Sometimes it helps to reinforce people before they respond to your question by telling them the positive effects of getting what you want or need.
- The basic idea here is that if people do not get any positive from complying with a request, at least some of the time, they may stop responding in a positive way
- "I will be a lot happier and probably more productive if I get a salary that reflects my value to the company."
- "Thanks for being so understanding. I really appreciate it."

- Keep your focus on your objectives in the situation
- Maintain your position
- Don't be distracted on to another topic

- Confident tone of voice
- Confident physical manner
- Appropriate eye contact
- No stammering, whispering, staring at the floor, etc...
- How confident to act in a situation is a judgment call. There is a fine line between appearing arrogant, and appearing too apologetic.

- Be willing to give to get
- Offer and ask for alternate solutions
- Reduce your request
- Maintain your no, but offer to do something else or solve the problem another way
- A helpful skill here is "turning the tables." Turn the problem over to the other person, ask for alternative solutions.
"What do you think we can do." "I am not able to say yes, but you really seem to want me to. What can we do here?" "How can we solve this problem?"


Showing Empathy

(Return to the intro post on this thread HERE)

Another portion of the DBT module, called GIVE, discusses how one can listen and speak to another person holding very different views without giving up one's own position, but also without putting down the other person's perspective. This can particularly be helpful to those of us who feel like we are able to speak our points but notice that others find our delivery too harsh or unsympathetic.

Gentle (Be)
Interested (Act)
Easy Manner (Use an)

- People tend to respond to gentleness more than they do to harshness. Avoid attacks, threats, and judgmental statements.
- No attacks. This one is pretty clear. People won't like you if you threaten them, attack them or express much anger directly.
- No threats. Don't make statements like "I'm going to leave this community forever if you...."
- Do tolerate a "no" to requests. Stay in the discussion even if it gets painful, then exit gracefully.
- No judging statements. No name calling, "should"s or implied put downs in voice or manner. No guilt trips.

2. Act Interested
- This involves being interested in the other person. People tend to feel better if you are interested in them, and if you give them time and space to respond to you.
- Listen to what they have to say (i.e. share the air time)
- Don't interrupt or talk over the other person
- Be sensitive to the other person's desire to have the discussion at another time if that is what the person wants.
- Be patient.

3. Validate
- Be nonjudgmental, out loud.
- Validate the other person's feelings, wants, difficulties and opinions about the situation.
- Find the "grain of truth" in what the other person is saying.
- Try to figure out what problems the other person might be having with your request, then acknowledge their feelings or problems.
- "I know that you are very busy, but..."
- "I can see that this is very important to you...."
- "I know that this will take you out of your way a bit...."
- This is a good skill to practice even if no conflict situation arises. More than any other skill, this one has the potential to affect the quality of relationships.

4. Use an Easy manner
- Try to be lighthearted.
- Use a little humor.
- Smile. Ease the other person along.
- This is the difference between soft sell and hard sell. People don't like to be bullied, pushed around or made to feel guilty.


Self Respect

(Return to the intro post on this thread HERE)

Part of communicating effectively is giving ourselves the self-respect that we are due. If we short-change our points before we even make our arguments, it makes our points and our positions feel less valid both to ourselves and to others. This is a part of the DBT module called FAST, for those of us who often find ourselves feeling silenced or voiceless in discussions. It is a way help us to give voice to our thoughts, find strength, and avoid responding in an unproductive manner both for ourselves and for others in the community.

Fair (be)
Apologies (no)
Stick to values
Truthful (be)

1. Be Fair
This means being fair to yourself and the other person in your attempts to meet your objectives. The idea here is that it is hard to like yourself in the long haul if you consistently shortchange yourself or take advantage of the other person.

2. No Apologies
- Apologize when apologies are warranted.
- No overly apologetic behavior. No apologizing for being alive. No apologizing for making the request. No apologizing for having an opinion. No apologizing for disagreeing.
- Apologizing implies that you are in the wrong. Apologizing when you do not believe you are in the wrong will reduce your sense of effectiveness over time.
- Being able to apologize is a very important skill, and is important for maintaining relationships. However, excessive apology gets on people's nerves and can reduce relationships effectiveness.

3. Stick to Values
- Don't sell out your values or integrity just to get what you want or keep the other person liking you.
- Be clear on what, in your opinion, is the moral or valued way of thinking and acting.
- However, in dire situations, or where lives are at stake, people may decide to give up their values.

4. Be Truthful
- Don't lie or act helpless when you are not. Don't exaggerate.
- A pattern of dishonesty over time erodes your self respect. One instance of dishonesty may not hurt, but dishonesty as your usual pattern over time erodes your self-respect.
- Acting helpless is the opposite of building mastery.
- Sometimes being honest may actually reduce relationship effectiveness. The little white lie was invented for this reason. However, if you are going to lie it should be done mindfully, rarely, and with purpose, rather than habitually.


I Statements

(Return to the intro post on this thread HERE)

In a previous thread, @Bolas had pointed out a method of communicating that helps us all avoid messages of blame toward others that cause defensiveness and can break down communication.

I-Statements focus on four things:
1. The feeling I am having.
2. What the behavior is that I am responding to.
3. Why (the unmet need) I am feeling/responding the way I am.
4. What it is that meets the need I have.

In some sense, I-statements complement the skills described in DEAR MAN above.

Simple format:
I feel __________ (state a feeling)
when __________ (what specific behavior was done that you are responding to)
because __________ (what need is not being met and what are the thoughts about that need)
What I want is __________ (describe the exact solution that would meet your need)

- I feel angry... (the feeling)
- when I am interrupted while I am speaking... (the behavior being responded to)
- because I feel I have something to say about this. (the thought and unmet need)
- What I want is to give my opinion uninterrupted. (how the need can be met)

Please keep in mind that the message loses its effectiveness if the statement points blame at anyone. it is not about who did what, but about how you feel about what happened and how it can be resolved. It is also extremely useful to be short and use specifics - specific feelings with specific problems.

Ineffective example: I feel angry when you interrupt me.
Better example: I feel angry when I'm not listened to.
Ineffective example: What I want is for others to stop lying to me.
Better example: What I want is the truth.



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