In the previous post, Communication SOS: What do you want? you learned to recognize your emotions as the first step to really pay attention to what you need or want. Here is the next important skill when dealing with others: making requests.
Making requests of others can be tricky. Did you ever receive the feedback that your requests can sound like a demand instead of gentle persuasion or firm insistence? Skillfully making a request increases the chances that it will be granted. So just how do you make skillful requests? Try using DEARMAN, which is an acronym introduced in Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
Here are the steps:
1. Describe the situation: Clearly describing the situation can improve the interaction, reducing the chances that an argument will ensue. A clear description provides a concrete reason for the request and is the first step in successful problem solving.
“We agreed that whomever drove the car last would fill up the tank, but the tank is now near empty.”
2. Express: Nonjudgmentally expressing your feelings and opinions when making a request can reduce the tension and help the other person understand the impact their behavior has had on your relationship.
“It’s frustrating for me when you leave the gas tank near empty because then I have to make a last minute stop at the gas station.”
Use “I” statements such as “I feel,” or “I want.” Don’t use statements such as “You should,” or “You shouldn’t.” Remember to state what you do want, not what you don’t want. This gives the person a clear understanding of what to do, again increasing the chances of successful problem solving.
3. Assert: Once you’ve sorted out the first two steps go ahead and ask for what you want or decline a request. Asking is important. We can make the mistake of assuming that others know what we want, especially when we’ve asked several times and are frustrated.
“When you’re driving the car and the tank is nearly emptied, please fill it up.”
4. Reinforce: Tell the person the positive effects of granting your request.
“If you fill up the tank I won’t be frustrated and we can have more pleasant conversations.”
Think about how the other person truly benefits from granting your request.
There are some points to remember when making a request.
5. Be Mindful: Stay focused on your goals even if the other person attacks or attempts to change the subject. Try using the “broken record” technique; keep repeating your point. “I still would like you to fill up the gas tank.” Don’t respond to attacks and ignore distractions. You can try redirecting. For example “We are getting off topic. We were talking about filling up the gas tank.”
6. Appear Confident: State your request in a confident tone, make eye contact. Don’t slouch, stare at the floor, or retreat.
7. Negotiate: Work collaboratively to find a solution that works for both of you. Offer and ask for solutions to the problem.
DEARMAN is a very effective and versatile method for making and declining requests. With practice it can certainly improve your interactions with others and increase the chances of having your requests granted.
All the Best.
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (second edition). New York: Guilford Press.