Assertiveness is a communication style that involves expressing your needs and boundaries while respecting the needs and boundaries of others. It can be challenging to be assertive without coming across as controlling or bossy, however, it’s important to remember that assertiveness is about expressing yourself in a clear and respectful way, while also considering the needs and feelings of others.
A useful tool for communicating assertively and effectively, particularly in situations where there may be tension or conflict is called the D-E-A-R-M-A-N technique. The D-E-A-R-M-A-N technique is part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which was developed by psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1980s. DBT is a type of therapy that combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness practices to help people manage difficult emotions, improve relationships, and develop effective communication skills.
By breaking down communication into specific steps, individuals can stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked by emotions or distractions. D-E-A-R-M-A-N technique:
- Describe: Start by describing the situation, using objective language. Stick to the facts and avoid emotional language or judgments.
- Express: Share how you feel about the situation. Use “I” statements to take responsibility for your emotions and communicate them clearly.
- Assert: Clearly state your needs or wants, using “I” statements. Be specific and direct about what you want or need.
- Reinforce: Reinforce your position by explaining why your needs or wants are important to you. This can include discussing the benefits of meeting your needs or the consequences of not meeting them.
- Mindful: Stay mindful of the conversation and the person you’re speaking with. Listen actively to what they have to say and be open to compromise.
- Appear confident: Use confident body language, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly and assertively.
- Negotiate: Work together to come up with a solution that meets both of your needs.
With practice, this technique can help individuals express their needs respectfully while building better relationships and achieving their goals.
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