It is easy to tell someone to communicate and assert their needs, but it is a lot harder in practice. Recently, I had to play the DIME game to figure out my rights and the intensity of asking for what I need from my landlord following a flood in my apartment.

The short version of the story was I reached out many times about flooding in my apartment and did not get a response until my apartment flooded from the front door to the back door, and my belongings were damaged. My landlord and I disagreed on the facts of the flood and the causes of the flood itself. This flood was the third time my messages were ignored, causing significant damage.

My inner social worker knew that I had every right to be frustrated and ask for repairs and money back. Yet, I was incredibly anxious to do so. I’m a millennial, after all, so advocating for myself against someone I felt had more power than me was terrifying. Have you ever seen a millennial send their food back if it was the wrong order?

Sending food back and asking for prorated rent is definitely at varying levels of intensity. I used the DIME game to decide on how intensely I planned to advocate for myself. The DIME game asks us the following questions imagining that our “yes” answers are dimes. The more yes answers (the closer we are to $1), the more intensely we ask.

  1. Capability: Is the person able to give or do what I want? In this case, yes. My landlord was able to prorate my rent and assist with damages to the apartment.
  2. Priorities: How important is my objective? Is it more important than my relationship? My aim was important, especially since I was planning now to move out. The importance of my relationship with my landlord changed, so yes.
  3. Self-Respect: Will asking help me feel competent? Yes, I felt that not asking for my request would lower my self-respect and risk my safety.
  4. Rights: Is this person required by law or moral code to do/give what I want? This one required some research, but at the very least, my landlord is supposed to make sure my apartment is livable. So, yes.
  5. Authority: Am I responsible for telling this person what to do? Not exactly, but I do have rights as a tenant.
  6. Relationship: Is getting what I want more important than the relationship? Yes, I was willing to sacrifice my relationship to get what I needed. This sentiment became increasingly accurate once I was able to move out.
  7. Goals: Is this important to a long-term goal? Yes, I wanted/needed to live in a place the felt safe and healthy for me.
  8. Give and Take: Do I give as much as I take? I was a tenant that paid rent on time (if not early) and took good care of the apartment, so yes.
  9. Homework: Did I do my homework? Do I know what I’m talking about? Yes, I researched what landlords were required to do and my responsibilities, including reviewing my lease.
  10. Timing: Is this a good time to ask? Yes, I did my best to communicate assertively and offered to schedule time to talk as needed.
    If you add it up, I have about 90 cents which means I should ask assertively, insist, keep trying, and be willing to negotiate. In the end, I needed the validation that what I was asking for was essential. The DIME game helped me to advocate for myself, just like I would any client or friend.
    The DIME game helps us manage the intensity of asking and saying no and teaches us to be flexible in our relationships. While it can be hard to practice what we preach, our self-respect and well-being are important. We can’t always make ourselves uncomfortable so that others can be comfortable. The more we advocate for ourselves, the more comfortable we will become.