DBT workbook – part III (1): Objectiveness Effectiveness

Part III of the workbook starts on page 19 and is titled “Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills”. Sounds like we’re getting to the good stuff now!

The next page splits effectiveness into three parts: Objectives Effectiveness (getting what you want), Relationship Effectiveness (getting and keeping a good relationship), and Self-Respect Effectiveness (“keeping or improving your self-respect and liking for yourself”). Because this blog post got long enough on Objectiveness Effectiveness alone, I’ll only deal with the introduction and this kind of effectiveness here and save the other two for the next post.

I’m very happy they included the third one. Much of the advice for building social skills that I’ve seen was geared towards the first two kinds of effectiveness, advised actions that seemed manipulative, dishonest, and/or otherwise repulsive to me, and glossed over any discomfort readers might feel with a sentence or two about how it might feel strange and uncomfortable at first, but one would quickly get used to it. Explicitly including it might mean that this workbook handles it differently.

For each kind of effectiveness, they present two questions:

1. What is the “thing” that I want from this interaction?
2. What do I have to do to get the results? What will work?

1. How do I want the other person to feel about me after the interaction?
2. What do I have to do to get (keep) this relationship?

1. How do I want to feel about myself after the interaction is over?
2. What do I have to do to feel that way about myself? What will work?

I’m not sure how they intend me to use these questions yet, but for use in actual, fast-flowing social interactions (especially emotional ones), these are way too difficult to answer on the fly.

Also, I don’t know the answers to each question two. If I did, interactions would be nowhere near as difficult to navigate. Instead, I’m guessing and trying some way, and I never know whether it will work until it’s already too late.
Although it occurs to me that this might be some more imprecise language, and they are not talking about what will actually work, but about what seems likely to work; a slightly easier question.

It’s worth noting that the answers might be incompatible: if I have to do x to keep the relationship, but x would make me feel horrible in some way, there’s no single solution – I will have to pick which kind of effectiveness is more important to me (and fast, if the issue comes up during an interaction).

Page 21 elaborates on Objectives Effectiveness skills and introduces the acronym “DEARMAN”, which is explained further on page 21 and 22.

DESCRIBE
EXPRESS
ASSERT
REINFORCE
(stay) MAN
APPEAR CONFIDENT
NEGOTIATE

For obvious reasons, I am very curious about the M. (Is this going to be a needlessly and possibly harmfully gendered thing?)

Describe the current SITUATION (if necessary).
Tell the person exactly what you are reacting to. Stick to the facts.

I can confirm from personal experience that this is often useful, especially when the interaction has taken some confusing twists and turns already. Sometimes, your conversation partner’s mind takes a few steps past what was already said, and then they react in ways more appropriate to where they ended up in their mind than to the situation at hand – and if you can’t figure out their steps, you’re basically lost at that point. Quickly summarizing what happened can help both of you identify misunderstandings, realize what has gone wrong, and get you on the same page.

Fortunately, this is also quite easy for me to do. Sometimes I just have to get over the fear that their mental steps would have been obvious to anyone else, and admitting/showing I haven’t been able to trace them will reflect badly on me.

Express your FEELINGS and OPINIONS about the situation.

Ugh, again with the-

Assume that your feelings and opinions are not self-evident. Give a brief Rationale. Use phrases such as “I want”, “I don’t want,” instead of “I need,” “you should,” or “I can’t.”

Oh. Oh, that’s actually doable and not uncomfortably intimate in most situations! And as with the first one, I’ve been doing that already sometimes, and with some success.

Assert yourself by ASKING for what you want or SAYING NO clearly.
Assume that others will not figure it out or do what you want unless you ask.
Assume that others cannot read your mind. Don’t expect others to know how hard it is for you to ask directly for what you want.

Sometimes others do figure out what I want from hints I drop, especially if they have similar issues around asserting themselves. But I can’t always rely on that, and developing the skill to assert myself would help.
Unfortunately, I currently lack it, and if this is all they’ll say on this matter (“do the thing!”), that probably won’t change with this workbook.

Reinforce or reward the person ahead of time by explaining the CONSEQUENCES.
Tell the person the positive effects of getting what you want or need.
Tell him or her (if necessary) the negative effects of your not getting it.
Help the person feel good ahead of time for doing or accepting what you want.
Reward him or her afterwards.

Okay, this just sounds really bad and manipulative to me, especially the last two sentences.

“If you take out the trash, I will be very happy, and if you don’t, I will be very sad” is exactly the kind of statement I already griped about at length in my post about NVC, and I don’t like it any better in this context.
I can think of some situations in which explaining consequences doesn’t feel manipulative, but necessary and factual: “I need to get up early tomorrow, and if you play noisily with your dog at midnight, I won’t be able to sleep”, for example. Or “Could you take down the trash when you leave? I forgot, and I’d have to take an extra trip to do it.”

But in both of those, it feels more like part of describing the situation, not an extra point, and neither of those have anything to do with rewarding a person. I don’t even know what they mean by that – I don’t give people treats for good behavior. I say thank you when people do nice things for me, or agree to do so – is that rewarding them?

I don’t do it beforehand, though. What would that even look like? I suppose one could say things like “if you took out the trash, I’d be grateful”. Is that what they mean? If so, that might be acceptable.

(stay) Mindful Keep you focus ON YOUR OBJECTIVES. Maintain your position. Don’t be distracted.

Ah. This is not what it said in the first longer version of the acronym!

Broken Record” Keep asking, saying no, or expressing your opinion over and over and over. Keep your voice calm and even while doing this.

The broken record is something I’ve been practicing a little already. In essence, it works very well with my brain: sticking to a script is what I do best. Reframing my refusal, request or opinion as a script to stick to is quite helpful to keep doing it under pressure, too.

It’s somewhat difficult to recognize the situations in which it would be appropriate, i.e. to distinguish them from situations that require more flexibility (e.g. the other person doesn’t understand my request correctly, or they have objections I could/should address, or even they’re an asshole and I should not engage them further).

Ignore If another person attacks, threatens, or tries to change the subject, Ignore the threats, comments, or attempts to divert you. Don’t respond to attacks. Ignore distractions. Just keep making your point.

This sounds potentially dangerous – when someone threatens or attacks, there’s probably some point at which you should defend yourself, or at which they start getting to you and you become visibly upset (which might encourage them – this is why ignoring bullies is rarely successful). Standing up for yourself and making clear that you won’t put up with this and they better back off now before you reach that point seems like a good idea, both because it might prevent future trouble with them and to achieve self-respect effectiveness. (There have been quite a few times in my life in which I didn’t stand up for myself, or waited very long to do so, and regret it.)

Appear EFFECTIVE and competent.
Use a confident voice tonen [sic] and physical manner; make good eye contact. No stammering, whispering, staring at the floor, retreating, saying “I’m not sure,” etc.

Let’s settle for confidently looking at their chin or earlobe, shall we? Or maaaybe at their nose or eyebrow, if we want to get really wild.

Otherwise: standing and especially breathing the way I do when I’m feeling confident does indeed help me to feel confident. I’m not quite sure whether it also appears confident – breathing isn’t really visible, but it’s what helps the most.
I don’t know what priorities the writers had in mind, but I’d put more emphasis on what makes myself feel confident than what appears confident when in doubt.
(Obviously, this point is moot when it comes to conflicts held in text/chat rather than in person, which I prefer.)

Negotiate Be willing to GIVE to GET. Offer and ask for alternative solutions to the problem. Reduce your request. Maintain no, but offer to do something else or to solve the problem another way. Focus on what will work.

“Reduce your request” seems to contradict not retreating, and this point as a whole seems to contradict some of the “stay mindful” point (Broken Record and Ignore). I suppose the big challenge here is recognizing when negotiating is an appropriate response, rather than the others?

In any case, searching for alternative solutions and problem-solving are what I do naturally anyway, since they are the optimal way to solve conflicts.

Turn the tables Turn the problem over to the other person. Ask for alternative solutions: “What do you think we should do?” “I’m not able to say yes, and you seem to really want me to. What can we do here?” “How can we solve this problem?”

This sounds potentially dangerous: they might suggest more things that are not acceptable to me (either intentionally or accidentally), and saying no too often will make me appear unwilling to compromise, which increases the pressure to say yes.

(The latter two suggested phrasings also seem icky again. Especially in a conflict, “how can we solve this problem?” sounds downright insulting to me – like I’m trying to get out of doing any of the work while still trying to claim credit, forcing a “we” when I mean “you”.)

Page 23 is a worksheet to practice “DEAR MAN” (yes, this time there’s space between the words, which does seem to make more sense) on a situation. It’s basically just a prompt for every letter with a bunch of lines to write on beneath each (except for M and A, where they misspell “confident” twice in the prompt).
I can’t think of a good situation to do it on, and doing the exercise without anyone to check seems hardly worth the effort anyway. I guess those are the drawbacks of trying to do this on my own.

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