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#50: How to Assert Yourself, Part 1

Do you find it hard to speak up for yourself in relationships? If so, this 2-part series on how to assert yourself may help you understand why it can feel so hard to ask for things or say no in different types of relationships.

In order to be able to assert yourself, you first need to know what you want and don’t want. Sometimes this is harder that it seems. If you’ve spent a lifetime minimizing or denying your needs, it may be hard to get in touch with what matters to you most. 

Once you’ve identified your needs, you have to trust that your needs matter as much as everyone else’s.

Show Highlights

  • How to know if something doesn’t feel right in relationships
  • Fears that asking for things or saying no will anger the other person
  • Every time you assert yourself and it goes well, it reinforces that you can do it
  • Fears that you are selfish if you ask for what you want and need
  • Beliefs that the way to be a “good person” is to not rock the boat
  • Shame might accompany being told no
  • Honoring cultural and gender norms that impact beliefs about asking for things or saying no
  • The common wish that other people should just know what you want and need
  • Watch out for Emotion Mind, which might tell you it’s safer to stay quiet
  • Try using Check the Facts to figure out how you will cope with what you fear most
  • Use Opposite Action to approach, rather than avoid difficult conversations
  • Build new experiences that let you know that asserting yourself is worth the effort
  • Build Mastery to help you slowly strengthen the assertion muscle
  • DEAR MAN shows you step by step how to ask for something or say no
    • Don’t forget to ask or say no directly for the “A” in DEAR

DBT Skills Discussed

Ask us a Question

We’d love to hear from you! Where are you getting stuck with your skills application? Ask us a question for the chance to have it answered on the podcast. Submit your question here.

Please note that questions, and this podcast in general, are not a substitute for individual mental health treatment.


#50: How to Assert Yourself, Part 1 Transcript 

Marielle Berg 

Hello and welcome to The Skillful Podcast where we explore DBT and RO-DBT skills to help you reduce emotional suffering, improve your relationships, and become more present in your life. I’m your host, Marielle Berg, a psychotherapist at the Bay Area DBT and Couples Counseling Center.

Marielle Berg 

Hey, Ed, how are you doing today?

Ed Fowler 

I’m doing good. How are you?

Marielle Berg 

I’m good. We haven’t recorded for a little while. So,

Ed Fowler 

It’s, it’s been a little while.

Marielle Berg 

It has been. But I’m eager to dive into our topic for today, which is all around self assertion. Why it’s hard, what gets in the way for us in asserting ourselves, skills to use. And we’re thinking this will be a two parter.

Ed Fowler 

Because I think that when we were talking about this topic, which I really relate to the struggles around asserting myself, and I think it’s a common thing, we wanted to talk broadly. But also recognizing that asserting ourselves can look very different in different relationships. There’s a difference between asserting myself with a significant other, versus a friend, versus a boss. And so we want to kind of talk more broadly and then maybe get into some specifics around particular relationships.

Marielle Berg 

And when we were discussing topics, I had you in the back of my mind and knowing that this is an area that you are continually working on. I would say for myself, I don’t think it’s one of my areas where I struggle in particular, but of course, I have other areas where I need to work.

Ed Fowler 

We’ll do podcasts on those too. (Laughing)

Marielle Berg 

And we have done podcasts on those issues. (Laughing) But maybe, you know, if you feel comfortable, you can start by just talking a little bit about what happens for you when, when it’s time to assert yourself.

Ed Fowler 

Yeah, I think that for me, the struggle around asserting myself is a very old assumption that I will be harming other people, that they won’t, either, they won’t speak up and say that my assertion is harmful to them, or they will say, how dare you assert yourself, my needs are more important. And so I get I can get caught in this trap of, I really shouldn’t say anything, it’s not worth it to say anything, it’s not a big deal, I can handle this, what’s the problem. And that’s something that I used to do a lot, and do very much less often now. And it can still come up because there’s really old stuff around this.

Marielle Berg 

You can talk yourself out of articulating your needs.

Ed Fowler 

I, really, I got good at convincing myself, I didn’t need to assert myself, it’s okay. I can handle this. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not worth it. And then that kind of became an always situation. So I was very rarely asserting myself and feeling frustrated. And because again, when we think about self assertion, it’s really about noticing, what do I need? What am I feeling? What am I thinking? What’s that telling me about what I need? And what do I need to say to others about that need? And we can get caught in a trap of I don’t need anything, I’m fine. I’m fine. Mainly because we’re afraid or unwilling to assert ourselves.

Marielle Berg 

Yes, yes. And I think that that’s really the first place to start looking at this. I like how you stated that, which is being in touch with our own wants and needs. And I think for folks who were raised, or sort of conditioned, to not pay attention, to not even check in, that that’s the first place to to look at, and you might have to hang out there for a while. With getting in touch with like, how do I know if something isn’t feeling right? What alerts me to that? Is it something in my body? Like is it you know, churning in my stomach? Is it an unease in some other way, but really just paying attention? Like how do I know what my wants and needs are?

Ed Fowler 

And noticing dynamics, for those of us who do struggle to speak up about our wants and needs, noticing. When I notice a need, is there a kind of pushing it to the side, or negating it, or shutting down that happens as well? And what we want is to be able to notice the wants and needs and notice what would be required to get those, and be willing to take those steps, and part of that is recognizing oh, there are barriers to taking those steps, what are those and what can I do about those?

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, let’s let’s talk more about those barriers or, you know, we’ve done an episode on different myths in interpersonal relationships. And maybe now’s a good time to revisit some of those or visit some of those that particularly are about myths around self assertion and the negative things that might happen if we do that.

Ed Fowler 

And I think a really big one is, the other person will be or other people will be upset with me, they’ll be angry at me if I ask for what I need. They’re not going to want to give it, they’ll be mad. And for me, that was a big one. And I think it does come from childhood. And I think we’ve all experienced this at times, where for kids, like you have to ask for your needs quite a bit. And sometimes adults just don’t want to hear it. And so in environments where there’s a lot of negating needs, and for me, I grew up in a big family, I’m one of five kids, my parents both grew up in big families. So there is a big dynamic about I just don’t have time for this, that is intergenerational. And so this, like, No, I don’t want to hear it. No, I can’t No, no, no. And so I’m going to get a harsh no, prevents us from asking at all.

Marielle Berg 

And the harsh no, it sounds like it has two uncomfortable components. One is just, you know, you’re being told no in a harsh kind of way that I can’t meet your need or attend to you or whatever you’re, you’re asking for. And then there’s this other piece, and now perhaps you have upset or made the person that you’re close to angry, and then maybe it’s done some damage to the relationship.

Ed Fowler 

Right.

Marielle Berg 

So it’s, there’s these these two layers, and that that’s worth highlighting. The fear that it’s actually going to hurt the relationship in some way if, if you make a request, or if you you know, and with asserting, we can also think about saying no.

Ed Fowler 

Exactly. And so for those of us who feel things deeply, any no is going to hurt. And if I fear that I’ve hurt the relationship in a way that’s going to also hurt me, that adds another layer layer of hurt.

Marielle Berg 

And being on the on the sort of like the opposite side or being close to people who have trouble asserting themselves, I so appreciate it, when people close to me are direct with me. I mean, maybe I’ll get mad at times. But I like to think I don’t that often. But you can ask my spouse about that. But mostly, I’m like, Oh, thank you, like, I can’t read your mind, I want to know, and maybe if I can’t meet this particular need, maybe there’s some kind of negotiating we can do. Or even I can just have empathy for the fact that I can’t do what you’re asking me. So that I can see if there’s that fear that like, Oh, I’m gonna make the other person angry that that’s really going to inhibit someone from speaking up.

Marielle Berg 

So I think there’s really something about knowing for each person, and I’m grateful Ed, that you were so transparent about the origins of this struggle for you. Because for the listeners, it might be similar, there might be a little bit of a different kind of take on it for each person, depending on the kind of family they were raised in and what they saw modeled.

Ed Fowler 

I do think that, in my experience also has been when people are direct with me, I appreciate it. Most of the time, when I am direct with people, they are open and understanding. And even when I think about my own childhood, I think that the presumption that I’ll get a harsh no was stronger than that a number of times I actually got that. But this is a dynamic that we all deal with is kids make sense of the world the best, they know how, and they cannot check every single thing out.

Ed Fowler 

And so sometimes we can really have a few experiences that we extrapolate and say, Oh, this is going to happen every time. And there are other situations where people really do have like harshness or abuse or real cruelty when they ask for things, but the dynamic is the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s like something that I assumed was bigger or stronger than it actually was, or if it really was deeply painful, either way, I have come into an adulthood with a belief that asking for things is going to get a harsh response.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, so that’s sort of the the template in your mind and you have to probably work very consciously to to have that not inform how you show up in relationships.

Ed Fowler 

And again, I think, to talk about what we’re going for in this episode is the awareness that every single time I assert myself and it goes well, I’m reinforcing Oh, asserting myself goes well.

Marielle Berg 

Yes.

Ed Fowler 

And so that there is less and less of that fear or the holding back.

Marielle Berg 

And I want to point out some other, what I think are common things that can come up for people who have trouble asserting themselves, that’s related to what we’ve been talking about, but I think it’s helpful to name it directly. There can be fears of like, I’m selfish, if I say no, or if I ask for what I want or need. So there’s some kind of lesson learned that the way to be a quote unquote, good person, or, you know, a selfless person is to not refuse requests, or to not ask for things like don’t rock the boat.

Marielle Berg 

I think another one is shame that can arise when we ask for something, if we’re met with a no, it can feel very exposing, and we can feel really vulnerable. And so thinking about whether that applies for you, and whether that that fear or that whatever the fear of shame, if that’s part of what gets in the way of you asserting yourself. I think there’s also cultural norms that can influence, gender norms, all this is kind of in the mix around whether or not it’s okay to ask for what you want or to say no.

Ed Fowler 

And I think that there also can be a belief that people should know what I want, without me needing to ask.

Marielle Berg 

Oh, yeah,

Ed Fowler 

And

Marielle Berg 

mind reading.

Ed Fowler 

and so that it’s like, it’s really not fair for me to have to ask for things, people should know. Which is kind of the flip side, but can also get in the way of like, how dare they not figure that out, I’m not going to ask they should figure it out. And we’re still not asking.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, that that desire, which I think is so human and commonplace, like, wouldn’t it be lovely if other people just knew what we wanted and needed and just gave it to us? But that, unfortunately, is not how it works. Ideally, we had a parent who could be attuned, at least, you know, enough of the time to when we needed things, you know, our diaper change, or to be fed or you know, whatever else babies need.

Marielle Berg 

But if we haven’t gotten that consistently in our life, there can be a real sense of like righteous indignation, like how come other people aren’t paying attention? How come they wouldn’t just know, like, that I don’t like that. And so again, identifying and naming, if this is, you know, true for you, that this is part of what gets in the way of you being as direct as you’d like to be. And so all of this, especially once it’s made conscious, can be worked with and of course, we have a, you know, a bunch of skills, that that can help you change these patterns.

Ed Fowler 

So, as we were talking about this, and reflecting on this topic, for me, I think the primary skills are Mindfulness skills, just to notice this is what’s happening. So being able to like really tune in Mindfulness of Thoughts, Mindfulness of Emotions, just to notice what’s going on, and noticing: What are my needs? What are my wants? What do I need to do to get there?

Ed Fowler 

But then also, I think another helpful foundation is a dialectical awareness. Being able to recognize I have wants and needs, the people I may need to ask for things for, have wants and needs. Neither are right or wrong, they may be different. I just need to clarify where am I coming from? Where are they coming from?

Ed Fowler 

Because the approach of I shouldn’t have wants or needs, or people should guess what my wants or needs are, or are my wants right, or are there wants right? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? All of that can make it harder, and really being able to try to be dialectical of, we all have once in needs, it’s about figuring it out and clarifying it.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, so with the dialectical, we want to think about, as you said, like looking at both sides, that just as we have a position the other people in our lives have positions, and staying aware of our connection to others, that we’re not, we’re not kind of islands. So we influence the people in our life and they influence us, so that back and forth is always happening.

Ed Fowler 

And another skill that I think is a really helpful starting place is Checking the Facts. Being able to notice what we’re thinking and feeling and Checking the Facts on it. And as we apply Checking the Facts and DBT, really sorting out, what are the facts of the situation and what are my assumptions, my interpretations, my judgments that may be clouding the facts.

Ed Fowler 

So being able to look at, okay, here are the facts, this is what I want. This is what I need. This is what has already happened in this relationship around this. And then being able to look at the assumptions such as, it’s not appropriate to want this, that’s, that’s a judgment, right? Or they’re, they’re not gonna want to hear this. That’s an assumption. I, this person always says no, that’s too extreme. Is it true that they always say no? Does that have to be a fact of the situation? Or is that an assumption. Being able to sort out the facts, which often when we’re Checking the Facts, the facts are very few and straightforward. And the assumptions and interpretations tend to be the things that get in our way.

Marielle Berg 

And key when we’re Checking the Facts, is Wise Mind. Because if we Check the Facts, and we are in Emotion, Mind, things are going to be very distorted. So this brings us right back to where we started, which is mindfulness.

Ed Fowler 

Right.

Marielle Berg 

So being present in the moment, making sure that you are in Wise Mind. And other ways to think about that is you’re centered, or you’re grounded, that you if you’re having strong emotion, because you can have strong emotion and still be in Wise Mind. If you’re having strong emotion that you can still kind of think clearly. And separate assumptions, myths, fears, from facts. And then you can write out and get very clear on a powerful Check the Facts.

Marielle Berg 

And another piece to think about with Check the Facts, if you do it kind of thoroughly, the way it’s laid out in our DBT workbook, is you’re asking yourself, what’s the catastrophe? Or what’s the threat? So if the thing that I fear most happens, well, first of all, naming what it is. And then if it does happen, how will I cope? And it might be counterintuitive, because you might not want to go there in your own mind. But if you ask for something, and the other person gets really angry, or maybe they, you know, your fear is that they’re going to end the relationship, how will you cope? And this can be, as I said, it can feel paradoxical, but it can be very calming and reassuring. Because what we find out is that we can cope with most things.

Ed Fowler 

I think that Checking the Facts really does ground this consideration of okay, what exactly is it that I need or want? What am I asking for? What am I assuming? How will I cope with whatever might happen? You know, what’s my plan? I think that all of that really gets us grounded and Emotion Mind to not, you know, the opposite of being in Wise Mind is really heavily being in Emotion Mind, can tell us, Oh, this is gonna go terrible, they’re going to be so upset, or they’re gonna say no, I’m gonna have to tell them, I never want to speak to them again. But to really like, keep it grounded in here’s what I want. Here’s what I’m gonna say, I’m looking at it much more strategically to in order to keep that Wise Mind balance.

Marielle Berg 

And then related, or maybe to piggyback on Check the Facts, is Opposite Action. And so Opposite Action is a skill that we use, when our emotions either don’t fit the facts, or maybe our emotions do fit the facts, but acting on them isn’t effective.

Marielle Berg 

So in Opposite Action, we are identifying what our emotion is guiding us to do. And we are doing the opposite of that. And we’re doing it all the way and repeatedly until our emotion changes. So with these examples that we’re talking about here, often, the main Opposite Action will involve something around approaching rather than avoiding. Because when we’re scared that asserting ourselves, whether we’re asking for something, or we’re saying no, when we’re scared that that’s going to damage a relationship, or that we can’t survive, if we’re told no, we have to move towards the thing that’s scaring us, rather than away from it. You know, my guess is Ed, that when, you know, I know, you’ve done a lot of work on this, but you know, you back in the day that you probably had really effective ways of talking yourself out of asserting yourself. And it was probably very convincing.

Ed Fowler 

Yeah, this is a really helpful way for me to recognize how being in very strong Emotion Mind can seem reasonable.

Marielle Berg 

Right.

Ed Fowler 

Because I was very good at convincing myself I don’t even want that. There’s no need to ask for it. I don’t even want it. When the reality is I was just afraid to ask, and not checking the facts to say what am I actually afraid of? I’m afraid they’re gonna yell. Oh, they never yell. Well wait. Why am I afraid of that act, right?

Ed Fowler 

And so I think that I, practicing Opposite Action, really helped me. The point of Opposite Action is that we start to feel different. Every time I feel afraid and ask for what I want, say what I want, say no assert that no, every time I do it, and I get a positive response, either I get what I want, or I can handle not getting what I want, I actually feel okay with that, then I do start to feel more confident: I can assert myself. Asserting myself feels good.

Ed Fowler 

And so the Opposite Action of asserting myself when I don’t want to again and again, helps me now to have a much quicker belief, if I assert myself, it’s going to go well, if I assert myself, it will be worth it. If I assert myself, I will be glad I did. As opposed to the Emotion Mind of if I assert myself, it’ll be terrible. There’s no use in asserting myself. And so Opposite Action gets us over that hump of my emotions are telling me don’t do this run away, just avoid it. And I know factually, this is going to be beneficial. So I just act like I like to assert myself and I assert myself and more often than not, I feel positive about it.

Marielle Berg 

So you kind of you fake it, the act like or act as if,

Ed Fowler 

Right,

Marielle Berg 

this is easier or comfortable.

Ed Fowler 

And for me, in the early days of trying to work on this, it was a lot of pretending that I was confident asserting myself. And that pretending to be confident in order to do something that was important got me to do it. And that’s the point of Opposite Action. Instead of for instance, being afraid and avoiding. We are afraid, and we do it anyway. And very often, if our fear doesn’t fit the facts, we’re going to feel positive about doing that.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah.

Marielle Berg 

And I just want to highlight you said something a moment ago, and I hope I’m remembering correctly that I thought was spot on. And there was something about like, you, you kind of like tested the waters or over time, you began to have different experiences with asserting yourself. And so I think that that is so helpful. If you know every time we have a different experience, even if it doesn’t go the way we want. Let’s say we ask for something and someone else says no, but it’s not awful. It didn’t end the relationship, we are not kind of dying in shame about receiving a no, but we can get through it. Like highlighting that for ourselves like, okay, that went okay.

Ed Fowler 

And I do think that that’s another piece of this is Opposite Action. Check the Facts gets us to what we need to do. Opposite Action gets us to do it. Once we’ve done it, we do want to mindfully take in how did that go? So that we’re reinforcing within ourselves, I was afraid this would be bad and it wasn’t. Because we want to start to build that awareness and that belief that just because I’m afraid doesn’t mean I need to avoid. And that when I’m afraid and I do it anyway, it often goes well.

Ed Fowler 

And so we take the opposite action, we fake it till we make it. And then we take in oh, that went well. So that we’re really helping ourselves to update our template, which for me early on was oh, asserting yourself is going to be bad. And now is asserting yourself may be hard and it feels good. It’s worth it.

Marielle Berg 

Yes. And the going well doesn’t actually mean that we get the desired outcome. But it’s not catastrophic. We can withstand it. And maybe as I said, how I appreciate when people are direct with me, maybe the other person does appreciate it, even if they say no, I can’t do that.

Ed Fowler 

Right. And then to me also, another skill that this fits in from Emotion Regulation is Building Mastery. So if you are someone that struggles with asserting yourself, you can view the process of trying to assert yourself as a form of Building Mastery, increasing your overall emotional resilience by working on something that’s hard for you and systematically doing it and being able to feel that benefit of hey, I’m doing this hard thing, it’s paying off, it’s worth it.

Marielle Berg 

And what’s the Building Mastery around self assertion, you can think about starting with something that’s challenging, but isn’t too hard. So maybe you know, the hardest area for you is asking for something in your closest relationship, you know, in your with your significant other, but perhaps with a coworker, it’s not that hard. So maybe you start there, or with an acquaintance.

Marielle Berg 

So finding something that is a little bit challenging, that stretches you a little bit to begin to, again, build that mastery so you can have some confidence like okay, I tried that that went okay. Maybe now I’m gonna try to assert myself with a, in a relationship with the stakes feel higher with someone that I’m more intimate with.

Ed Fowler 

Right, right.

Marielle Berg 

Or I realized, you know, in our part two, we’re going to talk about asserting oneself in different relationships. But I was just thinking about when there’s a built in hierarchy. So maybe asserting yourself with, you know, someone who’s above you at work, or there’s some kind of power dynamic, maybe that’s the scariest for you, or the hardest. So you think about doing this in ways where it isn’t so scary in the beginning. Where maybe there’s a little bit of a power dynamic, but it’s not as threatening or scary as maybe asserting yourself or saying no to your supervisor at work.

Ed Fowler 

And I know, for some people, it’s the opposite, like, asserting yourself with a supervisor is like, well, this is the relationship, whereas asserting yourself with a friend is harder. So start with the one that’s easier. And and do that and then build up to the one that feels harder.

Marielle Berg 

Yes. And then of course, we have our acronym rich Interpersonal Effectiveness skills. And there’s many of them. I don’t know if we’re gonna go over all the acronyms today, but maybe just to name some of them, we’ll see what we have time for. But we have our DEAR MAN, our GIVE and our FAST skills. And we’ve done episodes, I believe on all of those in depth, but we’ll we’ll unpack them more here. But our interpersonal core scripts oure DEAR MAN is really the place to start. And I love that it it tells you or directs you, you know, step by step, how to make a request or say no.

Ed Fowler 

And I think that it is really helpful in situations where we need to ask for something or say no, the DEAR MAN script gives us something to hold on to. Thinking about it ahead of time and trying to create this script based on the acronym, which we’ll get into, gives us something concrete instead of oh, I gotta ask for this. I gotta ask for this. Oh, I don’t know how it’s gonna go.

Ed Fowler 

Being able to say let me sit down and write out my DEAR MAN script. So to get into it a little bit and remind you, this is a little quiz for regular listeners. Can you remember what the DEAR MAN acronym stands for push pause and see if you can remember before we say it.

Marielle Berg 

And we will be grading you.

Ed Fowler 

Please email your answers so we can tell you. Okay, so now this is Marielle and I, our quiz. So the DEAR MAN acronym, should I go? Marielle? Should I take a shot?

Marielle Berg 

I know you know this, so go for it.

Ed Fowler 

So the D stands for Describe. So describe what it is you want to talk about with the other person, orienting them to the conversation. The E stands for Express your emotions and opinions. So express, you’re describing here’s what I want to talk about your expressing this is what I feel about that or this is my opinion on it. The A stands for Assert, which is the key point of everything we’re talking about. Assert what you want, assert what you’re asking for, assert the no if you need to say no. And the R stands for Reinforce what’s in it for the other person to give you what you’re asking for. So you’re reinforcing ahead of time that there’s benefit to them for giving you what you’re asking for or accepting your know.

Marielle Berg 

Got it, that was right on point. And that I want to spend a little bit more time on the A the Assert, because I find that this is the piece that can get missed, surprisingly. And I know being on the receiving end, I so appreciate it when it’s clear. What is the other person asking of me? Or what are they saying no to? And I feel like this piece can get glossed over because it’s the hardest. It’s where it’s where you’re saying directly what you want to say. And so making sure that you, you know what that is ahead of time and it’s stated very clearly. Because, being on the receiving end when someone’s trying to communicate something to you and they want to ask for something or they want to say no, if you have to kind of, you know, parse through a lot of words and indirect statements, that can be really hard. And that puts extra work on the listener to try to figure out what you’re asking for. So I sometimes think of the you know, assert as the ask, what’s your ask.

Ed Fowler 

What’s your ask? And again, I think one of the things when we talk about doing a DEAR MAN with someone, like really trying to keep it succinct, and for me, I think of like one sentence per letter of the acronym. So four sentences total of, here’s what I want to talk about. Here’s what I’m feeling about it, that’s the E. Here’s what I’m asking very specifically, very directly, which if you have fear of asserting yourself, that’s going to be hard. Write it down so that you can get it down. This is what I’m asking and say it, here’s exactly what I’m asking for, and here’s what’s in it for you to give me what I’m asking.

Marielle Berg 

And for those of us who don’t struggle with this as much, as you were talking, and I was thinking, like do your DEAR and your MAN and then like, shut up. I mean, that’s very judgmental, but like, I need that a little bit from me, like you said, your piece, you don’t, because what I can do sometimes, especially if I feel strongly about it, is keep asking and asking in different ways. And so like, say your thing and then give the other person a chance to respond.

Marielle Berg 

So maybe we’ll do a whole episode on that piece. But it’s like a different angle.

Ed Fowler 

Right.

Marielle Berg 

But yeah, but I think at some point, because it’s like, you know, not too many words don’t kind of overwhelm the other person, short and sweet. Because it’s so much more digestible then.

Ed Fowler 

Exactly.

Marielle Berg 

And then the MAN is a more about kind of how you do it, or qualities to bring to your DEAR part. So the M is staying Mindful, which has two pieces. One is called the Broken Record. So this is where if the other person and it’s related to the other piece of staying mindful is Ignoring Attacks. So if the other person tries to kind of steer you on a different course, or brings up something else that is tangentially related, but it’s not really on point to what you’re talking about. You want to ignore the other attacks, and you want to keep reasserting if you need to what you are asking, or saying no to.

Marielle Berg 

And so you might say, okay, you know, I understand you’re upset that I didn’t do XYZ, we can come back to that at a later time. But I would still like you to do whatever the thing is. So you’re staying on point with your request or your no, and not getting derailed. Because I’m sure you know, everyone has has experienced this, when you’re trying to talk with someone and and I’m sure we’ve all done it before, too. I know I certainly have, if someone has come and asked me for something, and there’s maybe some challenging history between us, I might say, Well, what about the thing you didn’t do, or you know, kind of go off in on a different tangent, and then the original ask gets lost.

Marielle Berg 

So that’s the piece around staying mindful. The A in the MAN is Appearing confident. So as you said earlier, Ed, and this is related to Opposite Action, like fake it if you need to. So appear effective and competent, with how you hold your body, eye contact, your tone of voice, all those things, speaking clearly. And then Negotiate if you need to. So being willing to give to get, perhaps reducing your request if you need to, and really trying to focus on what will work.

Ed Fowler 

And I like how in the DEAR MAN acronym, the negotiate is last. Because again, as somebody who has struggled to assert myself, I’ll start, instead of starting with a description, I’ll start negotiating. I want to ask you something, but it’s no big deal if you can’t, and if you can only do a little, that’s fine, here’s what I want to talk about. It’s like no, no, hold on.

Ed Fowler 

Leave the negotiating until the end, and only if necessary. And for me, when I’ve had to assert myself, when I’ve done a DEAR MAN, more often than not, the other person says, Sure. And there’s no need to negotiate. But I think for me, one of my automatic things is like, and it’s no big deal and we could do this, or you could do half or only if it’s okay with you. But really being able to just appear confident, be direct, be clear, and negotiate only if necessary.

Marielle Berg 

And that doesn’t mean, you know, it’s like as you were talking, like there are times where it might not be a big deal for us, so we’re very flexible. But we really want to be mindful, I think especially if we have a tendency to negate our needs to check in with ourselves. Like, am I really okay with that kind of flexibility right now? Or is this something and this is, you know, gets into other skills that we’ve talked about, which we won’t have time for today, but like how intensely to ask for something, or how intensely to say no, and there’s a whole bunch of different things to consider with that. But at least you know what we’ve given you here is a review of the DEAR MAN which is the starting point for communicating directly with with others in your life.

Ed Fowler 

So to recap what we’ve talked about. This episode is especially geared to people who struggle to assert yourself thinking through where might that come from? What are the things I need to be aware of in my approach? Being mindful and really understanding your own thoughts and feelings that describe your needs. Checking the Facts, and using some Interpersonal Effectiveness skills to to really assert what you need using Opposite Action as needed. All of this is a way to Build Mastery, that if you struggle with asserting yourself, this is a really helpful thing to focus on as a way to feel like you’re progressing. And then in our next episode, we’ll talk more about the specifics, especially for specific relationships, what to bring in that can help to assert yourself and assert yourself effectively.

Marielle Berg 

Right. All right, until next time.

Ed Fowler 

Thank you.

Marielle Berg 

Thank you. Bye bye. Thanks for listening to today’s episode. To learn more or if you’re in the Bay Area and want to get started with therapy you can find us online at bayareadbtcc.com. That’s bayareadbtcc.com.