I love Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). I regularly pull things from my DBT training and use it in my everyday life, and I also share it with my clients. One of DBT’s most helpful sections in the Interpersonal Effectiveness Module is Goals of Interpersonal Effectiveness. I am going to simplify it for the sake of time and understanding.
I invite you to think about interpersonal communications in your life and experiment with what I am going to share with you. I encourage you to try this for one week. When you are connecting with people, try to focus on three aspects in each interpersonal interaction. First, take into account your objective (or goal) in the interaction or situation. Next, think about your relationship to the individual, and finally think of your self respect. With each person you speak to, attempt to rank in first, second and third place what is most important. Based on who you are talking with it will vary. Once you have ranked them, you then look at what decisions or compromises you might make in the interactions.
For example, you and your partner/spouse are deciding on what to do with a work bonus, and you realize you are having a difference of opinion on how much you want to spend on bills versus how much to spend for fun. Look at your objective or what you want to accomplish. You want to spend most of it in bills. Reflect on how important your objective is in this situation. Now look at the relationship. This is where you reflect based on the importance of your relationship if you decide to budge, negotiate or compromise and how much you will compromise. You want to try and act in a way that is maintaining, fostering or keeping the relationship positive or good.
Finally, take a look at your self respect. Are you sticking to your values? Are you acting or making decisions out of a place that feels and is right for you? Would you walk away feeling really out of alignment with yourself, or feel your self respect is in jeopardy if you made a certain decision? Assuming a healthy sense of self-worth, ask yourself: Is my ego talking? Maybe you decide your self respect is on the line, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe most of the money can be spent on fun with little harm done.
Now, with objective, relationship and self respect being taken into consideration and ranked in importance, you can answer whether you choose to move forward on each situation, whether to wait, or alter circumstances. The great thing is that in some situations using this technique helps clarify your goals and makes your interactions with others much easier. You may learn (at times) “Wow this relationship is more important to me than I thought,” so you will loosen and let go of your objective. Or, it can tell you it is worth it to stand up for yourself because your values are important, and, in this situation, the relationship has to be in last place.
This DBT section of Interpersonal Effectiveness has been valuable as a decision making tool for myself and clients. If it sounds like something that can guide you in your decision making, give me a call for a list of resources or for an appointment to discuss this concept in more detail.