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  • Lemuel Tan


DEARMAN is an Interpersonal Effectiveness Skill within Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)*. DEARMAN teaches an individual how to ask for something from another person while maintaining a good relationship with the person. This skill is usually helpful when you need to say “no”, manage a conflict or have a difficult conversation. DEARMAN is an acronym with each letter in DEARMAN forming a word to help you remember what you need to do.


Describe the situation briefly. Always stick to the facts such as: I have observed……, I notice……, What has happened……, This is what happened…… There is no asking for an opinion or rejecting the conversation. It is entirely about stating what has happened. It is important that you and the other person are on the same topic and page.


Express how you feel or what you believe or perceive about the situation. By sharing your own views, it helps the other person understand and figure out what you really want from the conversation. Using I statements can be helpful here. I statements usually start with "I feel……". By using “I” instead of you, we reduce the chances of the other person feeling defensive. For example:

I Statement : I feel hurt and it makes me feel sad. You Statement : You hurt me and you are making me sad.


Assert is telling the person clearly what you do or do not want. Clarity is key and it is important not to beat around the bush or assume that the other person knows what you want. Assertion should not be mistaken for being aggressive, expressing or demanding.

Assertion : I am unable to give you a lift home.

Aggression : !@#^%! I AM NOT GIVING YOU A LIFT HOME.

Expression : I feel uncertain about giving you a lift home

Demand : No! You will not be getting a lift home from me.


Reinforce the other person. This means say something positive or rewarding that would happen for the other person if he or she gives the response you want. Reinforcing the relationship is important to the both of you regardless of the outcome. “Carrots” are usually more effective than “sticks”. Thus encouragement through positive consequences is better than punishment.

Carrot : By us keeping within the financial budget, it means you and I become less stressed as a family.

Stick : The more money you and I use, the more stressful you and I become.


Mindfulness is about learning how to be present. This is about not falling into the trap of bringing up the past or future problems. Ignore attacks and diversions from the other person. Ignore distractions from phone or environment. Stay on the topic about what you want to resolve. Use the “broken record” strategy by repeating the DEAR script over and over again through a mellow tone of voice. Or as Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, puts it “kill them with kindness”.


Appearing confident through your tone of voice, body posture, appropriate eye contact and even appearance (clothing, grooming, etc.). Appearing confident is not the same as being confident. People who appear confident will let the other person know that you are taking the conversation seriously.


Negotiate is about making the situation a win-win for both parties. Offer and ask for alternative solutions to the problem. It is okay to reduce your request but maintain your “no”. “Turning the table” strategy can be helpful by asking the person for an alternative solution. For example, “I am going to be firm with my no and you are going to be firm with your point. What can we do here?” How can we solve the problem? Do you have any ideas?”

DEARMAN may not be able to fix every single problem as it is not designed to fix problems but to improve interpersonal relationships. We do not want to blow up in front of people or become so upset that we withdraw within ourselves. DEARMAN requires practice and there can be fears and uncertainties in attempting this. Some people find it awkward at first. It is not impossible to practice and learn DEARMAN alone, however, having a therapist to work through some of your fears and hidden assumptions is usually a more effective way of learning the DEARMAN skills.

* Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a psychotherapy treatment model founded by Marsha Linehan around the 1980s. It has 2 modules with 4 components:

Acceptance Skills : Mindfulness & Distress Tolerance

Change Skills : Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills & Emotional Regulation.

The standard DBT Treatment programme (the one that is based on research) has been shown to be highly effective for those struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder and self-harm. This form of DBT is highly intensive and requires the client to attend Group Skill Training (2.5 hours per week for over 6 months/12 months), weekly individual therapy, coaching between sessions (24 hour availability of therapist) and the therapist consulting with the treating team. There are very few services available that can offer ‘research standard DBT’ due to the cost, capacity and time required. Due to this, many clinicians and services may only offer skills based DBT training in their modular or component formats.

Disclaimer: The material on this blog is not to be used by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog's author. The article above is an opinion of an individual clinician and should not be taken as full clinical advice. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any mental health or mental illnesses. Always consult your doctor for medical advice or seek professional therapy.

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