My holidays were filled with countless conversations with friends and family members about how to manage our feelings of fear and frustration surrounding the most recent Omicron variant that swept through the United States at a staggering speed. It seemed that the biggest dilemma was balancing being able to engage in holiday events while also being sensitive to spreading the virus & the needs of others.

I do not think its any secret that Covid-19 has created lots of chaos among families. The pandemic has exposed relationship stressors that already existed and has created an increased polarization among family and friends. Whatever was already bubbling up in your circle of love, is now boiling over. Covid has become the ultimate ‘pressure cooker;’ magnifying differences in values, communication styles, and bringing to the forefront any suppressed feelings you have been trying to bury for decades with siblings, friends or loved ones.

Getting clear on what we need is always the first step. However, I realized that figuring out HOW to ask for it is something we don’t always consider or know how to do. Once again, I found myself referencing DBT skills.

“I want to tell my brother he can’t come to our Christmas party without getting tested but I am not sure if I should or the best way to say it? I really don’t want to hurt his feelings.”
“I want to tell my best friend that next time she gets sick I need her to let me know as soon as possible, so I can protect my family.”
“I don’t want to go to the holiday party because I am not comfortable doing another COVID test and they are requiring me to do one.”

Ultimately, it is up to us to determine what we need and assert ourself with those we love. DBT offers us a way to be more effective in relationships while getting clear on our goals through this skill called CLARIFYING PRIORITIES. This skill allows us to clarify our goals prior to us ‘asking for what we want’ or ‘saying no’ in relationships so that we are both assertive AND effective.

First, Clarify which of the 3 priorities below is MOST important.

1. Getting What you Want, Refusing an unreasonable request (Objective Effectiveness)

2. How the other person feels about me after the interaction (Relationship Effectiveness)

3. How I want to feel about myself after the interaction (Self Respect Effectiveness)

Once you determine your priority, you can then utilize the DBT acronym below to help you know HOW to confront that person.

Next, use the skill that goes with your identified priority:

1. If getting what you want and meeting your goal is #1, you are going to use: DEAR MAN. DEAR: Describe the facts, Express your feelings, Assert your need, Reward the other person MAN: Be Mindful, Appear Confident, Negotiate

2. If it is most important for you to act in such a way that you maintain positive relationships and that others feel good about themselves and you, then you are going to use: DEAR GIVE.
GIVE: Be Gentle, Act Interested, Validate yourself and others, Use an Easy Manner

3. If your self respect is #1, then you are going to use DEAR FAST.
FAST: Be Fair to yourself & others, NO Apologies, Stick to your values, and be Truthful.

Once you figure this out, DBT offers you a clear roadmap. As with all of our DBT Skills, practice is the only way we can strengthen our communication skills! Being able to talk out the nuances of these skills with a trained professional allows us to become more comfortable communicating in a way that feels natural and not scripted. In addition, we can get clear on what stands in our way of becoming more effective and becoming the communicator we have always wanted to be!