When reflecting upon words to describe myself, assertiveness has never been an adjective that comes to mind. That is, until recently. Through DBT training, I’ve been taught skills on how to be more assertive without feeling as though I need to apologize immediately afterwards. The DBT skill D.E.A.R has helped me become concise with the language I use, conceptually clear in what I’m asking for or saying no to, and has decreased a sense of guilt after the interaction.

D.E.A.R is an acronym for what you say and how the D.E.A.R is delivered will be based on your objective. That being said, the first step in using this skill is to identify what your objective is when asking or declining a request. What is most important… Is it to get what you want? Maintain self-respect? Or focus on how the other person feels about you? Once you establish your overall objective, the rest is simply plugging in the related information.

DESCRIBE. In this portion, you are stating the facts and describing the situation. When providing facts only, the other person cannot disagree with you.

“I’ve noticed that when you become frustrated with me, you raise your voice and yell.”

EXPRESS. This is where you voice YOUR emotions and opinions about the situation. 

“I do not like being yelled at and shut down when you do so.”

ASSERT. Here is where you assert yourself by asking for what you want or clearly saying no. Although we may think it is obvious, the other person most likely does not know what you want.

“Please communicate with me in a calm manner.”

REINFORCE. Reinforcing what is in it for the other person, strengthens the possibility of them  complying. 

“Thank you for your willingness to communicate calmly. When you do, I am more present to hear what you are saying and feeling.”

1. If your objective is to get what your asking for, deliver D.E.A.R with M.A.N.

Mindful. Stay mindful by focusing on your goals and not getting off topic.

Appear confident. When speaking appear effective and competent rather than unsure and nervous so you are taken seriously.

Negotiate. It’s okay to give a little and alter your request in a way that is suitable for both parties.

2. If your objective is keeping or maintaining a relationship, deliver D.E.A.R with G.I.V.E.

Gentle. Be nice and respectful and avoid attacks, threats, and judging.

Interested. Listen and appear interested in the response from the other person.

Validate. Show the other you understand their feelings and thoughts by validating with words and actions.

Easy manner. By using humor or light-heartedness, it can move the conversation along smoothly.

3. If your objective is keeping or maintaining respect for yourself, deliver D.E.A.R with F.A.S.T.

Fair. Show objectivity and fairness to both yourself and the other person. 

(No) Apologies. There is no reason to apologize for making a request or having an opinion so leave “I’m sorry” at the door.

Stick to values. Your morals and values are important! Don’t forgo them for reasons that are not important.

Truthful. Be truthful and honest without exaggerating or making up excuses.