“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!” ― Maya Angelou
Many different fears can get in the way of asking for what we want and asserting our needs. As a therapist, I often hear remarks such as: “I don’t want to inconvenience my significant other” and “I don’t deserve to get a raise at work.” In addition to breeding resentment, these thoughts send the message that our needs are less important than the needs of others.
DEAR MAN is an objective effectiveness skill taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The goal of DEAR MAN is to help us achieve our goals by using our voice to ask for what we want, saying no, and/or expressing our point of view. Using the pneumonic DEAR MAN can help you organize your thoughts and increase the likelihood that your needs will get met.
Describe: First, describe the situation using facts, and facts only. This means setting aside any judgments and assumptions that you have about the situation.
Express: Clearly express how you feel about the situation. Expressing how you feel or what you believe about a situation is important since it helps the other person understand where you are coming from.
Assert: Next, be clear and assertive when asking for what you want or saying no. Being assertive differs from being aggressive. While aggressive communication involves attacking someone else, assertive communication respects the other person’s opinions and beliefs.
Reinforce: The fourth step involves reinforcing your point of view by explaining how giving you what you want will benefit the other person.
Mindful: Staying mindful involves holding onto your objective throughout the conversation in order to get your point across. When met with resistance, some people find it helpful to use the “Broken Record” approach, which as the name implies, involves continuing to ask for what you want or saying no until you are heard. If the other person responds with hostility or anger, ignore their attack and maintain your composure.
Appear Confident: Even if you do not feel, using a tone of voice and body language that exudes self-assurance can help you get your point across.
Negotiate: The final component of DEAR MAN involves negotiation. “Be willing to give to get.” You can also “turn the tables” on the other person, by asking them to come up with an alternative solution that is amenable to all parties involved.