DEARMAN from DBT is an outline for how to ask for something or say no to a request. The basic structure can be used for a variety of potentially emotionally-charged conversations, from eliciting an apology for a partner's empathic rupture to confronting a roommate’s messiness, proposing defining relationship status or saying no to a parental guilt-trip. The example here is for asking for more money at work. While working in inpatient treatment early in my career, I procured a meaningful raise using this very skill.
The DEAR part is what you’re saying:
D - describe. Start off on a neutral foot / avoid triggering your listener’s defensiveness with just the facts of the situation, with no more and no less detail than needed. “It’s been almost a year since my last performance review, and since that time, I’ve exceeded the goals I set and taken on a new challenge of developing the curriculum for and leading the ACT group.”
E - express. Venture into subjectivity and humanness now — what are your thoughts and feelings about the situation? “I love what I do here, and am proud of the clarity, precision, and compassion I bring to my work with clients.”
A - assert. Ask for what you want (or say no) unambiguously. “I’d like a 10% raise.”
R - reinforce. How is it either neutral or positive for your listener to give you what you want? Why should they feel good about your request? “That will bring my salary to a level that is commensurate with my performance and years of experience, which will give me the peace of mind I need to keep investing at a very high level here every day.”
The MAN part is how you’re saying it:
M - mindfully. While you can’t always wait for ideal circumstances, strongly consider the timing of your request, the format (face-to-face, text, etc.), your body language. Also stay mindful of the main thrust of your request, and “broken-record” if necessary to redirect from distractions (like when a partner “kitchen-sinks,” or throws in many unrelated concerns).
A - appear confident. Don’t have to be all guns blazing, but no apologizing for asking either. Deep breath, eyes up, simply and straightforwardly.
N - negotiate. When appropriate (i.e., as long as it’s not a serious safety or self-respect issue), consider in advance what compromises you may be willing to make. For example, less money but more paid vacation, or not ten days your parents’ for Christmas (dear god) but four.
Above all, be specific and concise. Good luck and reach out with questions! Long live Marsha Linehan, PhD (developer of DBT).
Rebecca Robinson, LMFT provides expert online, evidence-based therapy to deep-thinking/deep-feeling adults in California and Pennsylvania.