We continue a series on how to effectively manage emotions, so that we can engage more thoughtfully in relationship. All of the skills we discuss are designed to support the ultimate goal of wisdom (see post titled, “Emotion Regulation 1.0”).
For several posts, we looked at various awareness skills, and then several days ago, we began looking at distress tolerance skills. Today we begin looking at a few interpersonal effectiveness (assertiveness) skills. Learning how to be skillful in relationship can be particularly helpful in regulating our emotions. Of course, it requires that we regulate our emotions to do so.
Our first interpersonal effectiveness skill, objective effectiveness, refers to the ability to remain thoughtful when emotions threaten to overtake the moment. To remain objective, we have another acronym for you: DEAR MAN. I know, it’s a little cheesy, but hang with me for a minute. (Warning: even cheesier ones are on the way!)
When trying to remain objective consider DEAR MAN:
- Describe – Use words to name the issue. Remember from our look at this skill before: JUST THE FACTS. Define the who, what, when, where, and how. Not the why. The why speaks to motive and intent, which we often misinterpret, and then find ourselves fighting over the misinterpretation.
- Express feelings – Own your feelings, claim them and then put them out there, without asking anyone to do anything about them. They’re your feelings, and we’re talking about all kinds of skills you can use to manage them. Still, having them is fine. Feelings aren’t right or wrong, good or bad. They just are.
- Assert your needs and desires – First you have to identify what they are before you can present them objectively. Take some time to get to know yourself and the kinds of things that make you tick. Then don’t expect anyone to read your mind (passive aggressive) and don’t demand that others bow to your commands (aggressive). Simply put yourself out there on an equal plain with everyone else.
- Reinforce – You may have to kindly but firmly clarify and reinforce your position or your requests. Because others will think and feel differently, you can’t expect them to know what you’re thinking and feeling, any more than they can expect that of you. Be willing to repeat yourself, perhaps with different language or a new metaphor.
- Mindful – Keep a good hold on your intellectual guidance system while you remain engaged. Emotions are always present, but being consciously aware of them will help you keep them in check when they threaten to take over.
- Appear Confident – If you struggle with being assertive, you may have to “fake it ’til you make it.” You only have one life to live, and it will be what you make it, so take the risk and put yourself out there. You won’t always obtain your objective, but you certainly won’t if you don’t try. Some of the people we esteem as great individuals suffered repeated failures before their memorable successes. Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein are often used as examples of this reality.
- Negotiate – Remember, no one gets everything they want, but we can all get some of what we want, by negotiating effectively. Know what you’re willing to compromise and what you aren’t, what you will do and what you won’t do, what you’d like to have and what are deal breakers. Then be willing to hear what others’ needs are, while you try to find common ground together.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Remember, the concept of effectiveness is about what works, not about what’s right or wrong. To be effective means that we take into account the needs of others without sacrificing our own. The bad news is that it’s not easy to do; the good news is that it is a skill we can develop. It just takes practice, practice, practice.