Interpersonal Effectiveness and DEAR MAN

Interpersonal Effectiveness DEAR MANFor many people with depression, it can be hard to find an assertive, but not hostile, way of dealing with conflict.

Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) addresses many practical problems such as this with straightforward answers.

This comes from the “Interpersonal Effectiveness” module of DBT. The acronym to remember is DEAR MAN:


Describe the situation in as objective a way as possible.

“You have not always been cleaning your dishes at night. In the morning I do them and then I ask you again to please make sure to do them when it is your turn.”


Express your feelings about the situation (note the importance of distinguishing between description and feelings).

“I feel frustrated when I am in a hurry in the morning and I have to clean your dishes and take responsibility for reminding you to do them.”


Tell the other person what you think the solution to this problem should be.

“I think that you should do what you need to so that you remember to do your dishes when it is your turn.”

What will the positive outcome be of this change?

“If you do that I will be a more cheerful roommate and our home will no longer be tense.”

Stay Mindful
Stay focused on the goal and avoid getting dragged into argument.

The “broken record” technique can be helpful here… “I know that you feel that you almost always do your dishes and I am too sensitive to those rare times when you don’t, but I would like it if you would do what you need to so that you always remember to do your dishes.”

Appear Confident

One way of staying confident is avoiding the trap of “taking responsibility for the outcome” – all that you can do is present your case in the most effective way – who knows what kind of day your roommate is having… In other words, stay confident and calm in the knowledge that you can present your case clearly, but you can’t “make” the other person agree…


It is often good to expect a bit of “give and take” about the request…

“I could put up a reminder so that I always remember to do the dishes if you could do a better job of putting out the trash when it is your turn.”

We have written quite a bit about negotiation as a framework for effective communication…

For More Information

Negotiation: How to Deal With Conflict

Effective Communication

Books – There are a number of good DBT based books.