Use Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) GIVE Skills to Get and Keep Important Relationships

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January 11, 2014

DBT GIVE SkillsThis post is the second of a three-part series about Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills, adapted from Marsha M. Linehan’s book, Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder (1993, The Guilford Press, New York, NY).

A few weeks ago in anticipation of the holiday season, we took a closer look at DEARMAN skills . DEARMAN is the DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness acronym for Objectives Effectiveness, or getting one’s objectives, goals, or needs met. This month, I will discuss GIVE skills. GIVE is the DBT acronym for getting and keeping relationships. Maintaining relationships can present a challenge to all of us at times, but for OPI Living and OPI Intensive participants, who have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), building and keeping interpersonal relationships can be particularly difficult. Here are some pointers for using these skills effectively in interpersonal interactions.

G – (be) Gentle Be considerate. No attacks, threats or judging. Be able to tolerate “No.”

People are a lot more likely to respond positively to gentleness than harshness. Think of how you would prefer to be approached. Ask someone you trust to give you feedback about your tone of voice in different situations they have experienced with you, and be mindful of your facial expressions, posture and body carriage during interactions.

If a person feels threatened, attacked or judged, it is likely that he or she will shut down, attack back or remove himself or herself from the situation. Don’t use shoulds or shouldn’ts, blaming “you” statements, verbal or physical attacks, blatant name-calling or passive aggressiveness. Don’t imply insults with a condescending tone of voice or behavior. Don’t try to manipulate the person, use guilt trips or hold someone hostage by forcing the issue. Don’t threaten to harm or kill yourself, or threaten to damage property or withhold your friendship if you don’t get your way.

Everyone has the right to say no. Tolerate a “No” to requests and stay in a discussion even if it becomes difficult or painful, and make a graceful exit when the conversation has ended.

I – (act) Interested Act interested in what the other person has to say and focus on staying in the moment.

Really listen to what the other person is saying. Pay attention, and avoid the temptation to be thinking about and preparing what you want to say while the other person is still talking. Don’t interrupt or talk over the other person. Maintain eye contact and ask questions to show genuine interest or concern in the opinion, feeling or idea they are sharing. Maintain open body language and use non-verbal communication to convey interest, such as nodding your head or leaning in toward the person. Don’t change the topic of conversation abruptly. Avoid the temptation to fill silence or only talk about yourself or your own interests; make space for the other person in the conversation.

If the person wishes to have a particular discussion at a later time, be sensitive to this request and respect the other person’s boundaries. Have patience. Be understanding and try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective.

V – Validate Acknowledge the other person’s problems, feelings, desires or opinions. Be nonjudgmental out loud.

Validate the other person’s feelings, wants, opinions or difficulties. “I can see that this is difficult for you,” or “I totally understand how you feel,” or “I can really see that this subject is very important to you.”

See if you can determine what part of your request the other person does not like or is not comfortable with, then acknowledge his or her feelings or problems. “I know that you are extremely busy, but….”

This skill is one of the most important for affecting the quality of relationships! Validating another person’s feelings can go a long way because it feels good to be heard and understood. Even when there is no conflict, this is an important interpersonal skill to practice often.

E – (use an) Easy Manner Just smile!

A smile and a little humor can help set a calm tone or help to reduce tension in many situations. A light-hearted attitude can help to ease along a conversation. Try softening your approach instead of using a “hard sell.” Don’t make demands, harass or nag. Try including a sincere compliment or a giving a little special attention to the person.

Keep in mind that GIVE skills can help make even the most difficult situations more tolerable. For example, when setting a boundary or standing up for yourself, you may have to find a way to be okay with the other person feeling sad, angry or disappointed.

Maintaining relationships can be tough at times, but if you empower yourself by building mastery in DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness skills, you can approach the most difficult conversations with confidence.

DBT Bonus Tips For Post-Holiday Success

  • Always be mindful to practice Emotion Regulation skills. PLEASE MASTER…skills for reducing vulnerability to Emotion Mind. If you are irritable due to feeling tired, or cranky because you have not eaten regularly, maneuvering interpersonal situations can be trickier.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for a break from a really difficult conversation. Take a brief walk or step away from the conversation to take a few deep breaths or use grounding skills. Then return to the conversation at an agreed upon time. Most importantly, communicate to the other person and be in agreement about what the plan is for continuing the conversation. Don’t just walk away without saying anything and leave them wondering what happened!
  • Take time to balance thoughts and formulate an effective, thoughtful response rather than allow yourself to feel pressured to respond right away and say something you may regret.