Do you ever notice that relationships, across the board, are complicated, difficult and require different types of attention? Do you ever notice that no matter how hard you try, relationships are still difficult? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may want to read this post about “interpersonal skills.” Interpersonal skills are crucial to your success when interacting with people. Interpersonal skills training can teach social skills, assertiveness, listening skills, and negotiation skills. These skills are used to keep any relationship healthy and alive. There are three goals to keep in mind when using interpersonal effectiveness skill.
The first is Objective Effectiveness, which will help you reach your goal in a situation. You can reach your objective and goal by obtaining your legitimate rights, getting someone to do something, refuse an unwanted or unreasonable request, resolve an interpersonal conflict, and get your opinion taken seriously. In order to achieve objective effectiveness you should ask yourself, 1. What specific results or changes do I want from this interaction? 2. What do I have to do to get the results? What will work? Remember, you want to think about what will be more effective.
The second goal is Relationship Effectiveness. This is the way you get and keep a healthy relationship. You want to act in such a way that the other person keeps liking and respecting you, and balance immediate goals with the good of the relationship long term. To achieve this goal, as yourself, 1. How do I want the other person to feel about me after the interaction is over? 2. What do I have to do to get and/or keep this relationship? When trying to get or maintain a relationship with someone, an effective DBT skill to use is the acronym GIVE.
To be gentle, means to be considerate, don’t attack the other person, don’t make threats or pass judgment. Consider your tone of voice, and be mindful of your facial expressions, for example don’t roll your eyes, and maintain good eye contact. You should also sit or stand with good open posture. For example, you can achieve this by keeping your arms unfolded and face the person you’re speaking too. Remember to stay away from using should and shouldn’t or blaming, and use “I” statements as well. For example, “I feel hurt when you put me down.” “I think it would be helpful for me to take the car to work today because I have to leave early for a doctor’s appointment.”
For you to act interested, you will want to practice the following. Stay in the moment and be present to the situation. If you have any distracting thoughts, notice them and refocus your attention on the present moment. You will want to avoid interrupting or talking over the other person as well. You will also want to talk questions to show you’re genuinely interested. For example, “Tell me more about what happened at school today.” “How can I best help/support you right now?” Be sure to remove anything that could distract you when interacting with the other person. For example, put your phone down, mute or turn off the TV, go in to another room that has fewer distractions and is quieter.
Validation is a key interpersonal skill because it communicates to the other person that his/her feelings and thoughts are real and logical in that moment for him/her. Validation does not necessarily mean you agree or like what the other persona is saying, feeling, or doing, it means that you are trying to understand where the other person is coming from. Validation not only shows understanding, but it is done nonjudgmentally and without conflict. Some ways to validate someone else is by using phrases such as, “I understand, I hear, and it makes sense.” Look for what the person is feeling and then use one of these phrases to validate and reflect back their feelings without judgment. For example, “I understand you’re feeling anxious about your interview tomorrow.” Also, respond in a way that shows you’re taking the other person seriously. You can do this by validating him/her or handing them a tissue if they’re crying.
The last skill in the acronym GIVE, is to use an easy manner. You can achieve this by doing behaviors such as smiling or using humor when appropriate. Don’t make demands, harass, or nag the other person. If you were to use an easy manner for example, when talking to your teen about a poor test grade, you would want to use soft facial features, i.e., notice if you have pierced lips, lifted brows, sharp eyes. If you noticed these things take a minute to relax your face. This will send the message to your child that you are willing to hear what they have to say, and can feel more comfortable talking to you about their score. Do not demand that your child study harder for the next exam, or demand a passing grade, but instead talk openly about what your child needs and how you can work together to support them to do better next time. By using these GIVE skills, they can help make even the most difficult situations more tolerable.
Finally, the third goal of interpersonal effectiveness is self-respect effectiveness, which focuses on keeping or improving self-respect and liking yourself. Here, you will want to act in a way that makes you feel moral, by respecting your own values and beliefs. You will also want to act in a way that makes you feel capable and effective. Questions to ask yourself to maintain self-respect include, 1. How do I want to feel about myself after the interaction is over? 2. What do I have to do to feel that way about myself? What will work?
Another DBT skill to help you maintain your self-respect is the acronym FAST.
Be fair to yourself and the other person to help you meet your goals. It will be very difficult for you to like yourself in the long run if you are taking advantage of the other person, or if people are taking advantage of you. A way to practice being more fair in a relationship is to think about and approach a situation with someone else, looking out for the best interest of the both of you, not just one or the other. For example, if your co-worker approaches you at work telling you that she is overwhelmed and would like your help on completing some projects due by the end of the work day. You would want to be fair to yourself in this situation and tell your co-worker that you are unable to help her today because you have to leave on time to make it to your child’s basketball game. Remember to be assertive and fair to yourself in this situation, understanding that you may want to help your co-worker, and you told your son you would make it to his game.
Apologize only when an apology is necessary. You do not want to be overly apologetic. For example, apologizing multiple times for something you are sorry for. You do not have to apologize for your opinion either. Remember, if you express your opinion appropriately, and the other person doesn’t agree with you, does not mean that you have to apologize for your own thoughts. Apologizing is an important skill to know in order to maintain a relationship with yourself and others. It is important to know when it’s appropriate to apologize. For example, if you’re a cashier at a department store and you give a customer back the wrong change. This would be an appropriate time to apologize once, and give the customer back the correct amount of money. You will not want to apologize over and over again for the mistake. Acknowledge the mistake, apologize, and then move forward.
In order to stick to your values, you will need to first identify what your values are. Ask yourself, what is important in different areas of your life? For example, think about home, work, school, recreation/leisure, family and friend relationships, finances, etc. Staying true to your values will allow you to maintain your self-respect by not selling out because another person’s values are different than your own. Also, don’t go along with someone else’s values if you don’t agree with them just to get the person to like you or keep the relationship. For example, your friends want to go to a bar and stay out until 2 am, but you’re early in recovery and it’s difficult for you to be around alcohol. You will want to inform your friends that personally this is not a healthy situation to put yourself in and make alternative plans to spend time with these friends outside of the bar and not around alcohol. You will want to stick to your recovery values in order to maintain sobriety.
The last FAST skill is to be truthful. Be truthful with yourself and others, don’t lie or act helpless when you are not. Being dishonest once or twice may not be so harmful, but a pattern of dishonesty over time erodes your self-respect. Lying can lead to guilt, shame, and anxiety, if you are trying to keep up with all of the lies you told and who you told them too. For example, if you were backing out of a parking lot and ran in to a pole, you wouldn’t want to go home and make up a story to your husband about how the car was damaged. You will want to be honest about the incident, because if you were to lie about it you would need to remember all of the details you told your husband in the first place if he were to ask you about it in the future. Being truthful with him will decrease your anxiety and worry about lying. It’s important to maintain your credibility with others to have a trusting relationship.
Here is our final recommendation: stay extremely mindful of the three goals for interpersonal skills, to the best you can. Sometimes you will prioritize your objectives, other times the relationship, and other times your self-respect. Using the GIVE and FAST skills can certainly help you to maintain the relationship with others.