How to Ask for What You Want. LIKE. A. BOSS.

Learning to be Assertive is as easy as… DEARMAN

Asking for what we want isn’t easy. Asserting our needs can, in fact, be really hard. Especially if we think our ask might affect a relationship or create conflict – or worse – face rejection.
Asking someone for what we want can be a vulnerable experience and for those of us who prefer to avoid conflict like the plague – it can feel downright scary. Tough as it may be, it’s also really, really important. Being able to assert ourselves and communicate our needs is a skill that not only serves us well in relationships but is also part of good self-care.

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Asking someone for what we want can be a vulnerable experience and for those of us who prefer to avoid conflict like the plague – it can feel downright scary. Tough as it may be, it’s also really, really important. Being able to assert ourselves and communicate our needs is a skill that not only serves us well in relationships but is also part of good self-care.

The problem is that most of us aren’t ever taught how to do this. In the clinical world, we refer to this as “interpersonal effectiveness” – a fancy term to describe a person’s ability to communicate effectively and get along with others. And, thankfully, like most skills, it can be practiced, and mastered.

Learning to be assertive can help reduce your stress and worry

So, dear reader, if you’ve ever struggled with asking for what you want – whether it’s asking your boss for a raise or asking your partner to pick up their socks – don’t worry, you’re in good company. And I’m here to help.

A couple of years ago I was in a DBT training course where I learned this simple exercise called “DEARMAN” (an acronym I’ll explain below). It was a game changer for me. I use this tool in my own life and also love teaching it to my clients because it’s so simple and effective.

Each time I practice “DEARMAN”, I’m working on improving my ability to communicate in a way that not only honours my needs but also considers the needs of the person I’m communicating with. I’m asking for what I want in a way that feels (for the most part) like a win-win. Who doesn’t love a win-win?

Let’s get started. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s pretend that I am talking to a dear friend who keeps canceling plans at the last minute.
Note – This first part, the “DEAR” section, focuses on what we’re asking for.

This is where you describe the current situation as factually and objectively as possible. Tell the other person exactly what it is that you are reacting to.

D – stands for Describe

This is where you describe the current situation as factually and objectively as possible. Tell the other person exactly what it is that you are reacting to.

Example: “Jane, I’ve noticed that the last 3 times we’ve made plans, you’ve cancelled
last minute.”

E – stands for Express

Here, you can express your opinions or feelings about the situation. DON’T assume that the other person knows how you feel. Bonus points for using “I statements” (e.g. “I feel”, “I think, “I want” instead of “you should,” “you shouldn’t” or “you make me feel”).

Example: “When you cancel last minute, I feel upset because I plan my day around us
meeting up and I feel hurt that maybe you don’t care.”

A – stands for Assert

This is where you assert yourself by ASKING what you want or
SAYING NO clearly. Be specific. Again, don’t assume that the other person will know
what you want. They aren’t a mind reader.

Example: “I’d really appreciate it if you could give me more than an hour’s notice if you
can’t make it.”

How to be assertive

R – stands for Reinforce or Reward.

This is where you can reinforce or reward the
person ahead of time by explaining the positive effects of getting what you need or
want. If it’s necessary, you can clarify the negative consequences of not getting what
you want or need.

Example: “It would me feel better if I had more notice because I’d have more time to
rearrange my day and also it would make me feel like you care.”

Note – this second part, the “MAN” section refers to how we’re asking.

M – stands for staying MINDFUL.

Keep your focus on your goals. Maintain your position. Don’t get distracted or get pulled off topic. Repeat yourself as many times as needed. Do not respond to verbal attacks.

Example: “Jane, it sounds like you’re going through a tough time right now, but I would
still appreciate more notice if you can’t make it.”

A – stands for APPEAR confident and competent.

Use a confident voice. Make good eye contact. Avoid whispering or staring at the floor as you speak. If this is difficult for you, practice before hand.

N – stands NEGOTIATE.

Be willing to GIVE TO GET. Offer or ask for solutions to the
problem. Focus on what WILL work versus getting bogged down with what hasn’t
worked.

Example: “Jane, what would you do in my situation?” or
“Could we try this way for the next few times to see if we might both feel better?”

Using Assertiveness to get Approved

That’s it, folks! When trying this exercise for the first time, it can be helpful to practice beforehand. This might look like writing it down or practicing in front of the mirror. It’s also helpful to try this exercise with people you trust and feel comfortable with at first to build confidence.

Admitting Nervousness

can be the key to having the necessary courage

If you’re feeling a bit nervous when practicing (totally normal, btw), it’s ok to let the other person know that. For example, I might let Jane know that it’s taking some courage for me to have this conversation because I worry that she might get upset, or maybe because I am just not used to initiating conversations like this.

Being open with others about how we’re feeling can help to increase their empathy towards us and decrease their defensiveness. When we witness someone calling on their courage to express something it’s both endearing and admirable to watch.
So, dear reader, get out there, be brave, and start asking for what you want like the BOSS you are. You absolutely deserve it.

StevieAtkinsCounsellorToronto

Stevie Atkins

Registered Psychotherapist

Stevie Atkins is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) and Clinical Counsellor who believes that emotional health is just as important as physical health. On a day-to-day basis, Stevie works with individuals who feel anxious, depressed or stressed out in some capacity of their lives, as well as those dealing with change, transition and relationship issues. Working alongside her clients, Stevie supports them through the issues they face, helping them find effective ways to manage and empowering them to unlock their own resolutions and insights. Stevie understands that change can feel scary – that’s why she believes in a compassionate and collaborative approach that always honours the pace of the individual. She is committed to creating a safe, non-judgemental space where her clients can feel encouraged and supported.

  1. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectical_behavior_therapy

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