How to Assert Yourself, Part 2

#51: How to Assert Yourself, Part 2

In Part 2 of How to Assert Yourself, Marielle and Ed discuss common interpersonal pitfalls in speaking up for yourself in relationships.

Do you swallow your needs and then find they all come out in a rush of words and anger?  

Vacillating between staying silent and then blowing up is common and hurts both your relationships and your self-respect. This episode offers lots of ideas to help you avoid these extremes. 

It can be hardest to speak up in our closest relationships because that is where the stakes are the highest. Despite what our fears may say, speaking up actually can strengthen relationships if done skillfully.

Show Highlights

  • Fears of losing love if we rock the boat in our closest relationships
  • Memorize DEAR MAN to help you communicate with confidence
  • Use GIVE if your relationship is the top priority
  • Use FAST if your self-respect is the top priority
  • Don’t forget to be fair to not just the other person, but to yourself as well
  • If you wait too long to speak up, it may come out forcefully when you do
  • Don’t apologize for having needs or disagreeing with someone
  • Noticing the urge to exaggerate or embellish
  • If the relationship is your top priority, validate the other person with words and actions
  • Use an easy manner to promote openness in conversation
  • Act as if you are confident until you actually feel confident
  • Negotiate when needed, but don’t begin a request with negotiating your needs and wants if they are really important
  • Moving away from prioritizing the other person’s needs over your own
  • Resentment can build if you keep pushing down your needs
  • Learning to assert yourself takes practice, patience and self-compassion

DBT Skills Discussed

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#51: How to Assert Yourself, Part 2 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 

Today, we are covering Part Two of How to Skillfully Assert Yourself. And so in our last episode, we went over some of the common themes and worries and interpersonal myths that can come up when it comes to our asserting ourselves in different relationships. And we started to look at some skills that can help you work through that. And today, we thought we’d do a little more skill review and go over different types of relationships and some of the sticky things that can come up when we are trying to assert ourselves. And in the broad category of self assertion, we’re thinking about both when you have a request. And when you want to say no to something,

Ed Fowler 

Which really does come under the specific focus in DBT, of Interpersonal Effectiveness, which really is about how to ask for what you need, or say no. And what we’re going to talk about today is that that can look very different and need different approaches, and different relationships.

Marielle Berg 

And the area where people tend to struggle the most, because usually the stakes are the highest is with the folks that we are closest to. So this often comes up in intimate relationships with significant others.

Ed Fowler 

Our closest relationships tend to be the ones where we’re most aware of the high stakes. And that myth about “I can say the wrong thing and get it wrong and ruin the relationship,” can be really strong. And so certainly with significant others, with family members, with really close friend,s or or important coworkers that can all come up. But with significant others in particular, there is a way that people can find themselves very intimidated to speak up.

Marielle Berg 

Our first experiences of love and attachment and security, or lack thereof, is with our parents or caregivers, whoever raised us. And when we start dating someone and fall in love, all that old stuff comes up. And I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why old patterns can reemerge in our most intimate relationships. And so I will often speak with people who are doing really well in their lives. And, you know, it doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling from time to time at work or with friendships with self-assertion, but it’s really in their romantic relationships with their significant others where they get tripped up. And so maybe we should start with that first, like going with the hardest first.

Ed Fowler 

Right. And I think that, again, like you said, Marielle, very often, like human beings want to feel connected. We tend to really want to feel that sense of this person understands me, this person can help me they can meet my needs, they can care for me. And this goes way back to earliest childhood, and continues throughout our lives. And so romantic relationships are very much about like we’re making a commitment to each other to be the primary caregiver in adulthood. And so we want a lot, and we need a lot. And that’s where we can, it can get confusing, and we can get scared, of what will happen if, for instance, I speak up and say I want something different than what I’m getting. Is that going to hurt the relationship? Will I lose this care? Will I lose this love? Will I lose this help?

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, and we can know consciously as adults that we’ll survive. If we lose that care and love and lose your relationship. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be very painful. I think there’s a younger part of us that is really terrified. And that can often dictate what we do or say, or how we might avoid certain things, because we don’t want to risk losing that that connection, that attachment, that safety.

Marielle Berg 

So last week, we went through briefly, DEAR MAN, and what that acronym stands for, and we can maybe do a quick review of that because I feel like even though it’s a bit repetitive, you sort of have to hear it over and over to kind of memorize it. But we should also think about the GIVE skill and talk about that and how they GIVE overlaps with interpersonal effectiveness.

Ed Fowler 

Yes. So for DBT enthusiasts and regular listeners, push pause and quiz yourself on what do each letter of demand stand for? And then you can unpause and we will say that DEAR MAN, again, is our basically our foundation for interpersonal effectiveness. This is the script as it were for if we really want something and need to communicate something important, this is a helpful strategy for doing that. So the DEAR stands for, Describe the situation you want to talk about. So orient the other person to what it is that you want to talk about. The E stands for Express your feelings and opinions. The A stands for Assert, the whole point of this episode, assert what you want, what you’re asking for what you want to say no to. And the R stands for Reinforce what’s in it for the other person to give you what you’re asking for. And that’s the the DEAR, the MAN is how you do that DEAR. So you are Mindful of your goals. So mindful of what’s important, which means that you’re not responding to attacks, you’re not getting distracted, you’re sticking with the topic at hand. The A stands for Act confident. So even if you’re not feeling confident, act confidence that you’re really showing, “I’m serious about this” and ready to engage. And the N stands for Negotiate. And as we said last week, the N is the last thing you do. So when you’re communicating, you negotiate last. First you say what you want, you assert yourself, and then negotiate as needed.

Marielle Berg 

Lovely, nice, brief rundown. And so with the DEAR MAN, that’s that’s the starting point. And then we can think about using GIVE, which we’ll review. And as you were talking, I was thinking that for folks who have a hard time asserting themselves, they might kind of overdo it on some of the aspects of GIVE. And I’ll talk more about what I mean in a moment, and maybe sometimes more FAST, which is for self respect, is needed, even if the relationship is the most important thing.

Marielle Berg 

Because we, when we’re using these skills, we use a DEAR MAN when our objective when getting what we want is our top priority. So that’s asking for something or saying no. And then you add a GIVE skill if your relationship is the top priority. And that means that you are primarily focused on keeping the relationship and maybe even improving it. So the way you do your DEAR MAN is to add this GIVE skill. And then we also have when your self respect is a top priority, we add something called a FAST skill.

Marielle Berg 

And I know there’s lots of acronyms, and I hope people are not getting lost with them. But we’re going to talk about them all, that you you add that one to your DEAR MAN. And I think for folks who struggle with asserting themselves, they might have to go more heavily on the FAST.

Ed Fowler 

I was thinking that too.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, even even if the relationship is a top priority, because when we’re communicating with romantic partners and significant others, it usually is the relationship even if we can’t get what we want. Or we don’t get to say a no maybe as firmly as we want to, we want to usually keep and hopefully even improve the relationship. But we can’t forget about our self respect, because I feel like that’s what can go by the wayside when we tend to prioritize other people’s needs over our own regularly.

Ed Fowler 

And I think again, those of us who struggle with asserting ourselves, very often we’re very comfortable being gentle, and, you know, being very understanding of the other person. And that’s where we’re familiar and comfortable. It’s not always effective. And so if you struggle with assertion, you may need to lean more heavily on skills around self respect and standing up for yourself.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, and on that note, because I was going to start with GIVE, should we do FAST instead?

Ed Fowler 

Let’s do it.

Marielle Berg 

Okay. Okay, let’s well, we’ll talk about both.

Ed Fowler 

We will talk about both.

Marielle Berg 

But since you’re talking about, you know, maybe not wanting to overdo it on niceness and validation, let’s talk about the FAST skill. So and this is a creative acronym, which I’ll explain or unpack a little bit. So the F stands for being Fair. And so this includes being fair to yourself and then the other person and remembering to validate your own feelings and wishes as well as the other person’s. And this is I think, the real challenge if you’re struggling with self assertion. Can you validate your own feelings and wishes? Can they be as important as what the other person wants and needs?

Ed Fowler 

I think really important to be conscientious of that. Of what is what is it that I want and I want to put that at least on equal footing with the other person, if not even emphasizing that a little bit more. Cause very often for those of us who struggle to assert ourselves, we’ve been putting off asserting ourselves, we’ve been prioritizing the other person’s needs for a while. And so it and it may be out of balance. And we need to prioritize our own desires, and be fair to ourselves with more emphasis and priority than fair to the other person, because we’ve been doing that maybe too much to remain balanced.

Marielle Berg 

And another thing that can happen over time, I know this is a bit of a sidebar, but I’m just gonna say it’s I don’t forget, is I and I’ve certainly I don’t include myself as someone who really struggles with self assertion that much, but I was really thinking about it this morning and saying, is that really true, Marielle? Like, and I think there are ways I can, at times, push down my wants and needs, thinking that I’m doing, you know, right, by the people I’m closest to, and resentment can build with that. And so I think, if you habitually, you know, put other people’s wants and needs above your own, when you finally do ask for what you want, or state your opinion, or say no, it can come out with a lot of force. And then that can, you know, reaffirm or can serve as sort of proof like, see, look what happens when I assert myself, it does not go well. So I think noticing early on is really, really important. This way, when you you bring up whatever you want to bring up, you can do it in a more gentle and easy manner, which is related to the GIVE skill,

Ed Fowler 

As we’re talking about this, and we’re going to finish the FAST skill. But I really do think when it comes to struggles to assert ourselves, we need to balance both GIVE and FAST. We need to really be looking at both, because both are helpful. Both are important. And oftentimes, if we’re struggling to assert ourselves, we need to emphasize both it’s not one or the other.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, I like that.

Ed Fowler 

So to keep going with the FAST skill. The A in fast stands for no Apologies. Because we can very often over apologize. And sometimes that can be effective to get our needs met, but often it’s not. And what it often does is causes us to feel bad about ourselves. Like, why did I apologize so much. I was just asking for something simple. And I felt the urge to apologize for asking for anything at all. So the FAST skill reminds us don’t apologize, don’t over apologize. Be careful not to apologize. And so if you find yourself to be someone who over apologizes when you need to ask for something or say no, try really hard not to and you will almost certainly feel uncomfortable. And you get to experience asking for something without having to apologize for needing.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, I like that. And the way this looks in communication often is like starting off requests or saying no, with I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but or, you know, hate to bother you. And any and occasionally, you know, we don’t want to be black and white about this, occasionally, those things can be helpful to smooth things over and soften certain lines of communication. But if you struggle with asserting yourself, you really want to be aware of that. And as much as you can, cutting it out, you do not need to apologize for asking for things or for saying no.

Marielle Berg 

And then the S is Sticking to your values. So first, you have to know what your values are, and what your own kind of moral compass is directing you to do, so knowing your own mind and not selling that out, not allowing yourself to get too swayed by the other person, because that is a big self respect compromiser when we do that, we don’t feel good after interactions like that.

Ed Fowler 

So very, very important to be conscious going in of, what are my values? What’s important to me? What do I prioritize? And making sure that you’re sticking with that and staying true to that in the in the conversation and what you’re asking for.

Ed Fowler 

And then the T in FAST stands for be Truthful. Because I think again, when we struggled to assert ourselves, oftentimes, there’s so many myths wrapped up in it. And one of them can be it’s not enough to just say no, for instance, I have to have a really good excuse. So I’m going to make something up that sounds good. It’s not enough to need something and ask for it. I need to, it needs to be extremely important, so I’m going to exaggerate and make it seem much more important that it is because that’s the only way I’m going to get what I’m asking for. And the T in the FAST skill reminds us to just be truthful. This is what I need. This is why I’m saying no, and leave it at that. And I think the FAST skill really reminds us to say less, in general. To just ask for what we need, and leave it at that. And not try to embellish, not try to make it bigger or smaller, or, you know, make ourselves bigger or smaller. But to just practice being direct and saying, here’s what I need.

Marielle Berg 

As we’re talking, I was thinking so much about people feeling like or maybe not feeling like they have a right to ask for things and to say no. Like a right to their own needs, and how the FAST skill really gets to that, and how this piece around being truthful is so important. Because when we’re embellishing or, like I’m gonna make this sound, you know, really kind of extreme and create, you know, a story. And I think it can happen without a lot of thinking, if that’s what we’ve done habitually. And therefore I can ask for this thing is what underlies that is, I think, a belief of like, I don’t have a right to need things. If you resonate with that, just keeping that in mind and trying to challenge that belief.

Ed Fowler 

And when we struggle to assert ourselves very often, the foundation of that is a lot of myths. And a lot of beliefs that almost certainly started when we were quite young, and grew and grew over time. And so we really want to notice if we’re out of balance, and struggle to ask for our needs to be met, to ask for the ability to say no, and have it taken seriously, then there may be these beliefs that I don’t deserve. I don’t deserve to ask or say no, just because.

Ed Fowler 

And I think that for those who don’t struggle to assert themselves, there’s a belief of like, yeah, I can ask for what I need. It’s just part of life, I can say no. That people say no, sometimes, for those of us who do struggle, there is like, well, not me, that doesn’t apply to me, I need to make a big deal, I need to it needs to be extremely important. It can only happen if it’s convenient to the other person.

Ed Fowler 

And in our closest relationships, especially for instance, with significant others, we need to be able to say I need this and have a conversation about it. Even if the need can’t be met, we need to be able to talk about that. And so I think that the FAST skill can be really helpful to give us a focus that helps us be a little more direct, and stand in a sense of strength in our asking, as opposed to self consciousness and insecurity.

Marielle Berg 

So should we do a quick review of the GIVE skill? And then and then do an example? Yes. So the GIVE again, this is a creative acronym. So the G is for be Gentle. And we have four different components of that. So no attacks, obviously no verbal or physical attacks, or, you know, expressing anger indirectly, if you’re angry, you want to express that with words, no threats, no judging and no sneering. So I think about this as not playing dirty.

Ed Fowler 

And again, I think that when we are conscious of wanting to maintain the relationship, as we’re asking for things, a gentle approach tends to be more effective. So really trying to be gentle, not forceful. And at times, we do need to be forceful, but not the first time. When we’re first acting, asking for something, we want to just be direct in a gentle way without bringing in a lot of attack, or any attack really.

Ed Fowler 

And then the I in GIVE stands for act Interested or even go so far as to be Interested in the other person. So that we’re really making an effort to demonstrate to the other person that we’re interested in their perspective, we’re interested in what their needs are, that we are not ignoring them, and, and what is important to them. We’re also interested in that, and we’re paying attention, we’re listening, we’re present and not distracted in our own thoughts.

Ed Fowler 

Especially again, for those of us who struggle to assert ourselves, we can be in conversation and not really listening to the other person. Because we’re thinking about all our worries about what we need to say next. And what are they thinking about me? And what is this all going to mean? And this reminds us to really focus on acting interested in the other person, really listening to them.

Marielle Berg 

I think about with the act interested or be interested, and with the V for Validate, overlap with Mindfulness of Other skills, like kind of putting aside as much as we can our own concerns to focus on the other person. People feel that and they like it.

Ed Fowler 

Right.

Marielle Berg 

And so the V is for Validate. So with words and actions, you want to show that you get the other person, you understand their thoughts and their feelings and where they’re coming from. It’s sort of like stepping into their shoes for a moment. And there’s different things you can say that can validate. Such as, you know, I know This is hard for you. Or, you know, of course, you would find that challenging or I understand how you feel about this, and that when you do that you want it to be genuine.

Ed Fowler 

And again, I think for those of us who struggle to assert ourselves, really helpful validation can be. I know, I haven’t asked for this earlier. Or I know this is new for me to bring this up. Because sometimes it takes a lot to get us over that hump of saying something. And a key part of validation is to acknowledge I know, I haven’t spoken up before, I honestly was a little apprehensive about how to do it. And this is important to me.

Marielle Berg 

Yes.

Ed Fowler 

And then the E in GIVE reminds us to approach this with an Easygoing manner, that we are not approaching with a lot of intensity, I need to have a serious conversation. But more just like, hey, I’ve been thinking about something and I wanted to talk about it, or I know that we’ve been fighting a lot about this particular thing. And I don’t want to fight again, I do want to talk about this a little bit. And so we’re really trying to bring as easy of a manner as possible, to bring down the intensity of the conversation. And to, to really, I think it promotes people’s openness to conversation, if we’re not coming with a lot of intensity, but more of an easy manner.

Marielle Berg 

And we might need to do some Distress Tolerance skills before we talk with someone to bring down our distress level. So we can have that easy manner and be more relaxed.

Ed Fowler 

And again, I think that easy manner can be helpful if you struggle to assert yourself, sometimes it can be easier to get yourself to do it. If you can say, hey, can we talk about this, as opposed to oh, my gosh, I have to gear myself up to say something really important. And I don’t like to assert myself. And this is going to be so hard. But easy manner can be a nice Opposite Action of like, hey, I want to have a conversation, it’s it’s not a big deal. And I really want to talk about this. And so we’re really trying to use that easy approach to keep the other person less on high alert.

Marielle Berg 

So let’s do a quick example of how you might communicate with your significant other with a DEAR MAN, and we can bring in some of the GIVE and the FAST. So let’s do you know a common one around communication around coming home. So let’s say you are waiting at home for your sweetheart, and they are late. And they haven’t let you know that they’re late and you are feeling feelings about this. And you want to ask them to communicate with you. And if you have a hard time asserting yourself, you may have been sitting on this, like it probably has happened more than once. And so you may have been stewing on it and not saying anything. And the time has come for you to ask for that kind of communication. And so we can do a real kind of, you know, simple one.

Ed Fowler 

So yeah, just using the the DEAR skill, you probably a helpful thing to say is like to describe like you said, you would be home by this time and you’re not. And then express what you’re feeling. I get really worried and it makes me really anxious when I don’t hear from you when you’re late. And then you want to assert what you want, I would really like for you to let me know if you’re going to be late. And then reinforce what’s in it for them to give you that. So I would be a lot less stressed, a lot less tense, a lot less irritable, if I knew when to expect you home.

Marielle Berg 

And notice with that, with what you just said Ed, I mean, it’s harder to convey maybe like, you know, well, we can’t convey the facial expression, but we want to use an easy manner. So if you and that might be hard because you might be feeling irritated, but trying to be as relaxed as you can and open with your body language. And now you’re talking about it, because it will bring down the defenses of the other person and you’ll both be kind of softened to more of an honest conversation. And in that, what you just said, there were there weren’t a bunch of you know, apologizing, I’m so sorry to ask you for this. I know you’re so busy and you forget, but you know, it’d be really nice to get a call but you know, but if you can, it’s okay. It’s okay. We don’t want to do any of that.

Ed Fowler 

Right. And again, that what I just said, The using that DEAR format was very direct, like, here’s what happened, here’s how I felt, here’s what I want, and here’s how it will be beneficial if you give that to me. Where if we’re struggling to assert ourselves, I can imagine how easy it would be to say, Oh, you’re pretty late. And that’s it. That’s the extent of asserting, we’re not, we’re not saying anything about what we want, how we feel, what’s going on, right? We want to be able to, like address this directly, instead of either feeling like, I can’t say anything, and I just have to put up with this, and this is causing me a lot of stress, and there’s nothing to do, or I’m going to blow up. And I’m just going to start that fight. And I’m gonna say you’re always late, you never let me know when you’re going to be on time, and I’ve been worrying about you for forever. But like, really, the DEAR MAN gives us an opportunity to like, just be direct and say, Hey, you’re late. And this is how I feel, and this is what I want.

Marielle Berg 

And then, depending on what the other person says, we will have to use the MAN part. So that’s as two parts. First, the M is for staying mindful. So you want to use the Broken Record. So that means sticking to what you’re saying, kind of over and over, which also involves ignoring attacks. So if your significant other comes back with like, well, you don’t always call me, or you know, why you nagging me so much, you know, how busy I get at work, or when I’m with my friends, I don’t want to be on my phone, you know, or wherever they may go. You you can validate that, like I get it, I know, it’s hard, that some of the V from our GIVE skill, and I would still really like a call, it would still it would still be really helpful for me.

Ed Fowler 

And I think that, you know, thinking about this from the perspective of struggling to assert ourselves, I think the DEAR MAN format can give us some courage, basically, because I am enacting this thing that’s in a DBT book. And so I am really staying mindful here. It’s part of what I need to do. I’m not being distracted by attempts to change the subject. And say, like, I’m, you know, like I told you, I don’t like to be on the phone, when I’m with my friends. Like, I still would like a call, like, and so I think that sometimes reviewing this and holding on to this can help us stay true to, and again, this is part of from the FAST skill, being fair to ourselves, this is important to me, and I need to not be distracted from what I’m asking for. So I’m just going to keep reiterating. I think that broken record can be so valuable. I still want a call, I still want to know what time you’re going to be back. It’s still important to me.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, yeah. And for folks who struggle to assert themselves, I think this is where the assertion or that kind of sticking to your guns with this can really fall by the wayside. Because there might be an excess of validating, or you might get swayed like, right, I understand honey, who wants to be on their phone, you know, during an important work project or while you’re with your friends, you know, it’s okay, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. So, so we don’t want to lose sight of that. And I think the validation is important, coupled with sticking to what you’re asking for.

Marielle Berg 

And also not getting pulled into some of the things that can come up when we were talking about self respect in the FAST skill. You don’t have to apologize here, or say something like, I know, I’m just I’m just so anxious, or I’m a worrywart. And I’m so sorry, I know I’m pain in the butt. Nope, we want to cut that out because it compromises self respect.

Ed Fowler 

Right.

Ed Fowler 

And so again, like going back to the DEAR, you want to Appear confident, which again, I think can be a very helpful opposite action, when you struggle to assert yourself. So you’re appearing confident, this is important, this is if it’s worth it for me to ask for this, my DBT podcast told me that I should do this and it’s valuable. And so whatever it takes to get you to do it, and to act as if you are confident until you actually start to feel confident.

Ed Fowler 

And then the last part is to Negotiate. And we only negotiate if the other person is really arguing back and not wanting to give us what we’re asking for. And so we can talk about, okay, well, what are some options. And I like, part of the negotiation that can be very helpful is turning the tables. So what do you suggest? I want a phone call if you’re going to be late, or I want our text or something. What do you suggest we do? How do you suggest we resolve this? So that we’re not responsible for figuring this out all by ourselves, we can put it back on the other person.

Marielle Berg 

And I really love the negotiate thing, if you can still stick to what’s important to you. Where you know, it’s this is especially important in our intimate relationships where it becomes a we problem. Like this, this matters to me, this is really important, do you have ideas, how can we come to a solution here? So you’re bringing in the other person’s input because there’s two of you with differing needs and both needs matter.

Marielle Berg 

And so when you’re negotiating you, it requires some flexibility. You want to think about being able to give to get, you might have to also reduce your request. But be very careful about doing that if you struggle with asserting yourself, because you might go to that first. So again, thinking about Opposite Action, like, okay, maybe it will come to reducing your request. But but maybe you can try to sort of stick to your values for a bit longer and see if the other person might be able to meet you halfway.

Ed Fowler 

And I think that this reminds me, when we are people who struggle to assert ourselves, we’re going to need some trial and error, we’re going to need to, for instance, try a DEAR MAN, and find ourselves negotiating away too much. And realize after the fact, like, oh, this actually doesn’t meet my needs, I negotiated in a way that I didn’t get my needs met, I need to go back.

Ed Fowler 

And so having a stance of, we can always go back and say, Hey, I’ve been thinking about it more, and I’d like this. Because I think another myth is we get one shot, we get to ask for what we want or say no one time, and that’s it. And once that’s done, if it doesn’t work, it’s too bad. But really, especially in intimate relationships, we’re going to need to keep adjusting and revisiting. And so this is an experiment, I’m going to try this DEAR MAN, see how it goes, review it, see if it’s met my needs. And if it hasn’t, I’m going to try again, with another DEAR MAN, and bringing in the GIVE and FAST skills as needed. But building up your ability to practice asking for things or saying what you need to say clearly, until that becomes more natural. And so those of us who struggle to assert ourselves, we’re going to need a lot of practice. So keep practicing.

Marielle Berg 

Such a great reminder that you know, particularly in our intimate relationships with even with close friends, and maybe also with some family members, or extended family members, but particularly in intimate relationships, you will be negotiating, hopefully, and asking for things or saying no, for the length of your relationship, that this is not a one shot deal. And you can even say to your significant other, like I think we’re getting stuck here, or I’m getting confused, or I’m a little bit overwhelmed, can we come back to this? So it’s an ongoing conversation and negotiation that takes both your needs into account.

Ed Fowler 

And if you are somebody who struggles with asserting yourself, ask for help from others, as well. So let friends, or your therapist, or whoever family members know, hey, I need to ask for this thing, I’m going to do it, I’ll let you know how it goes. Or, you know, talking to people and saying I was asking for this thing and the other person kind of talked me out of it and I’m not sure how to go back and say, Hey, I actually really want that. So we don’t always have to do this by ourselves, I think it can be valuable at times to get some support, whatever that might look like just being able to say, Hey, I did this thing. And having people say good job, or getting strategies if we’re struggling with how to do it.

Marielle Berg 

Such a good idea, so you don’t feel alone with it. So there can be some accountability, and then someone else to check in with after, because it’s a process as we learn to assert ourselves more clearly and effectively.

Ed Fowler 

So we’ve been talking a lot about how to use the Interpersonal Effectiveness skills, especially in our most intimate romantic relationships, for instance. This applies to any relationship. And I’m sure that people have been thinking about, Oh, this really applies to my relationship with my mother or with my son or with my boss. And so we can apply these skills in any relationship.

Ed Fowler 

There are different struggles with particular dynamics and relationships. So the struggles you might have with a significant other are going to be different than the struggles to assert yourself with a coworker, who you’re on an equal level with where it there, you’re not an authority, they’re not your boss. And so how do we, how do you stand up for yourself with someone who you’re on an equal level with in a very particular professional setting? And thinking about like, okay, so we are equals here, I am an equal, and therefore, I can say what I want, say what I need as much as they can.

Ed Fowler 

I think that it’s, you know, different if you’re trying to assert yourself with a boss. And for those of us who struggle, there can be particular relationships that are hard. So sometimes asserting yourself to an authority figure, versus a friend or a significant other, can be the hardest area. And so thinking about what is it that intimidates me about asserting myself with this person, and this is my boss, it is their job to listen to what is important to me and help me meet my needs at work as much as it is my job to help them meet their needs and their goals at work. And so thinking about that and using the DEAR format again to give yourself like a really solid script to help you feel fortified as you go into something that may be intimidating to speak up to an authority figure.

Marielle Berg 

With some of these interactions, I think that there is a piece that can make it, even, even though it can seem really challenging, or perhaps a little bit more accessible or a bit easier than with our significant others, where there’s continual back and forth all the time. If it’s with, say, a supervisor or co worker, you likely will have a chance to kind of really prepare, and that can go such a long way. So writing out your DEAR MAN maybe adding some of the FAST skills to it as well. So you can stick to your values and not over apologize and be confident in your ask, so you can really prepare.

Marielle Berg 

And it does get tricky when there’s power imbalance. And I think this also comes up in different ways with adults and their parents. Because even if you are a middle aged person, and I will include myself in that broad category, with the dynamics that you have with your parents or other family members, with siblings, with other extended family members, really can last a long time. And so even if you’ve both changed a lot, some of those dynamics can be very entrenched. And so I think, again, preparation, the Coping Ahead, using some of these skills in advance with your therapist, with friends that you can talk it through, you know, with yourself in your journal can really help you feel grounded and more skillful in these interactions.

Ed Fowler 

I think with family relationships, there’s so much history. So whether it’s with a parent or a child or a sibling, there’s like so much history that we have to contend with. And people may be have become very used to us not asserting ourselves. And so it takes a little effort to say, I’m going to be a person who asserts myself even with my parent who’s not used to that, or even with my sibling who’s not used to that. And so, again, noticing what is it about this particular relationship that makes this hard for me, and then coping ahead for what to do with that.

Ed Fowler 

Like, when as soon as my mom starts saying, Well, you know, it’s always been so hard for me, I’m sorry, I can’t do anything. And then I feel like, Oh, I can’t keep pushing. I think really just being able to think about, okay, if they say this, what will I say, I’m going to plan ahead a little bit. Not too much, because we don’t want to become like over planned. But I know that this is these are the kinds of things that are going to come up, this is what’s going to throw me off and cause me to stop trying to assert myself. And so I’m going to have my DEAR script, and I’m going to be prepared for if they throw me off in certain ways, I’m going to stay mindful and stay on track with what I’m asking for.

Marielle Berg 

And keeping in mind too, that there are some family members who may have more severe mental illnesses or be struggling in ways where you can be the most skillful you can be, and they won’t be able to respond in a skillful way. And so then then you’ll need to use other skills. And for some relationships, there may be real limitations. And so we might have to do Radical Acceptance and pull in Distress Tolerance skills to help us. And so I think that there’s a piece of thinking about the capability of the other people that we’re communicating with. And we don’t want to sell them short, we want to try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Unless and until we we learn otherwise.

Ed Fowler 

And dialectically, people may be very limited and may not be able to respond to our requests. And, we we need to ask for what’s important to us. And sometimes we need to speak up even if they can’t respond, and we need to try. And so that’s where I think dialectically we want to hold both. That whether the other person can really give us what we’re asking for or receive our no, it’s important for us to assert what’s important to me, and say it anyway and plan for it. And hopefully, this episode has given ideas about how you might plan ahead and cope ahead and be prepared so that you can speak up, because we all have needs and we need to speak them at times.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah. So that’s, I think a nice note for us to end on. Thank you, Ed.

Ed Fowler 

Yeah, thank you.

Marielle Berg 

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