Our relationships can bring some of the greatest joys in our lives, but every relationship is bound to come across conflict from time to time. More often than not, those conflicts are rooted in a breakdown of communication. When faced with having a difficult conversation, emotions can take over, we make no progress toward getting what we want, and we end up straining the relationship. Finding an effective way to communicate our needs can make a world of difference. If you have ever found yourself unable to get your needs met in a relationship, read on!

The DEARMAN Method was developed as part of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which teaches skills for regulating emotions, distress tolerance, and mindfulness in relationships. DEARMAN is an acronym that lays out the steps for making a request in the most effective way. The example below comes from this article from Skills You Need, and you can find more examples in this article from Sunrise Residential Therapy, and this post from Psych Bytes. Without further ado, here are the steps for having a difficult conversation using the DEARMAN Method.

1. Describe

First describe the situation in objective language, using only facts. This will help you get on the same page with the other person:

-“You didn’t cc me on the client email.”

2. Express

Here is where you can express your feelings or concerns about the situation. Try to focus on using “I” or “me” statements:

-”It made me feel out of the loop and worried about other things I may not be aware of.”

3. Assert

This is where you communicate your needs or the decision you have made:

-”I would like you to cc me in on all client emails.”

4. Reinforce

Reinforce the value of what you are proposing by showing how the other person will benefit:

-”I think this will really help our working relationships as I will be less stressed, and more understanding of your current workload.”

Great! Now you’ve described the situation factually, expressed your feelings about it, asserted yourself by asking for what you want, and reinforced what you want by presenting the value of what you are requesting. But what if the person you are talking to doesn’t back down or tries to start an argument with you? That’s where the MAN part of DEARMAN comes in.

5. Mindfulness

Do your best to stay in the moment. Stay focused on the topic at hand and do not bring up other grievances from the past. If the other person tries to attack you or change the subject, ignore it and stay on topic. Repeat yourself multiple times if necessary. Stay calm and do not raise your voice.

6. Act Confident

Maintain good eye contact and don’t back down. Hold your physical presence and do not shrink!

7. Negotiate

If after asserting and reasserting your position, the other person still has not agreed to your request, you may need to open your mind to their perspective. You can adjust your request, or it may be time to turn the tables and ask them what they would do in your situation. This puts the burden on them to come up with a solution to the problem. You can try using this method whenever you need to have a potentially difficult conversation. It really helps to plan out what you’re going to say and break it down using the DEARMAN acronym to make sure you’re prepared. This cheat sheet from DBT Self Help is a great resource to look at right before the conversation!