Asking for What You Need
Boundaries are important for our own understanding of our limits and what we’re comfortable with. When our boundaries are violated, we tend to feel uncomfortable, upset, distant, hurt, or angry (to name a few emotional responses). An important part to setting boundaries is knowing how to ask for what we need.
Some important guidelines to consider before asking for what we need include:
- Setting a boundary with an action to follow (e.g. be okay with walking away from a relationship if the other person continues to violate your boundaries)
- Being clear, direct, and firm in the words you use
- Limiting the use of debating, defending or over-explaining yourself
- Knowing and connecting with your support network
- Staying grounded in what you need by not giving in if this is important to you
Now, you’re ready to ask for what you need. A simple way to structure our conversations in asking for what we need is to use the DEAR MAN strategy:
“DEAR MAN” is an acronym, with each letter representing its own skill. As you learn and try to use these skills, you’ll find that having hard conversations becomes easier over time.
Describe the situation (“I’ve noticed that …”). Stay factual and reduce YOU statements
Express your feelings (“I’m feeling …”). Name the emotion and don’t explain the rationale behind your feelings
Assert your needs (“I need …”). Be concrete and direct in your language. Remember you can’t force anyone else to feel a certain way, so try to keep it focused on your needs versus their response
Reinforce the outcome (“And by doing this …”). What will they gain by meeting your needs?
Mindful. Take a minute to check in with how you’re feeling. Ask yourself “what’s going on for me?”
Appear confident. Body language and postures are super important, so make sure you are standing or sitting up straight with an open posture. What do you need to do to appear confident?
Negotiate. Be open to making and hearing suggestions. See if you and the other person can agree on something that works for both of you. What is/isn’t negotiable?
Learning how to stand up for ourselves while still respecting the needs and limits of other people can take a lot of practice. Remember to be kind to yourself if some of these interpersonal skills feel newer. Many of us have years of unhealthy relationship habits or patterns to undo. You can and you will undo them – you are making a choice now to do things differently.
It is recommended that you try applying this with someone you trust and can make small requests with before you start using this in more challenging situations.
Written by Vivian Zhang, Clinical Therapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.
To learn more about how we can support you with developing healthy boundaries and communication tools, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 647-961-9669.
Content from this blog post is adapted from DBT Skills Training: Handouts and Worksheets (Linehan, 2015).