#5: Using the DEARMAN Framework to Say No

Do you find it hard to say ‘no’, or get what you want in your relationships? Today, Marielle and Ed will be talking about interpersonal effectiveness. The interpersonal effectiveness skills in DBT are practical and they are really helpful in giving us a structure for obtaining what we want and need in relationships. These skills also provide us with a structure for saying ‘no’, while maintaining our self-respect. This is something that many of us seem to struggle with, so tune in now, to find out more.

“When emotions are high, we’re not going to be as effective in asking or saying ‘no’ because the emotion is going to cloud things.”


In DBT, it’s important to think about balance when trying to ask for something or to say ‘no’ to something in relationships. In today’s podcast, Marielle and Ed will be introducing the interpersonal effectiveness module, and they will be discussing one of the module’s core skills. Listen in, to find out what they have to share about these really effective interpersonal skills.

Show Highlights:

  • In DBT, when looking at interpersonal effectiveness skills, we’re trying to balance different needs and priorities.
  • Meeting our objectives, maintaining the relationship, and maintaining self-respect are all important things to consider.
  • DBT helps people figure out which of the three goals has top priority, in order to help people figure out which skill to use.
  • Sometimes, people are not clear about what they want from a situation.
  • How to look for the middle and avoid the extremes in relationships.
  • Thinking about some of the hard conversations in advance can be super helpful.
  • When emotions are high, we’re not able to be as effective in asking or saying ‘no’ because the emotion may cloud things
  • When our emotions are high, the tendency is to focus only on the short-term and we forget our long-term goals.
  • Some common myths that people have about interpersonal effectiveness and relationships.
  • Looking at common interpersonal myths such as:  I don’t deserve to get what we want or need or I should always be willing to sacrifice my own needs for those of others.
  • It’s hard for some people to tolerate others feeling upset with them, so they find it hard to ask for something or say ‘no’.
  • Some of the myths people who place their self-respect first all the time tend to believe. People should just know what I need so I shouldn’t have to ask is a common one.
  • Learning the skill of Radical Acceptance and how that relates to relationships.
  • Ed and Marielle go through the foundational skill of the interpersonal effectiveness module in DBT. It’s the acronym DEARMAN. D=describe, E=express, A=assert or ask, R=reinforce, M=mindful, A=appear confident, N=negotiate.
  • Ed and Marielle bring DEARMAN to life with an example. 
  • Marielle gives some real-life examples of DEARMAN from their own working relationship.
  • In the relationships where we are most comfortable and we let our guard down, is often where we are the least thoughtful. It really helps to have a structure to hold on to and to help us be more thoughtful about these types of interactions.
  • Writing out a brief script for yourself before having a hard conversation can really help you to remain focused.

Would you like to ask a question and have the chance for it to be answered on the podcast? If so, please use this form. Please note that asking a question and this podcast in general is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individual mental health treatment.