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  • Writer's pictureDr. Susanna La

How to Have Meaningful and Quality Relationships

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Do you have trouble asserting yourself in relationships? Do you find yourself acting in ways that disregard your self-respect?

Learning to communicate effectively is a skill that many of us (especially female-identified folks and people of color) were never taught. From a young age, we may have been taught to "be polite" and "say yes" even if our instinct was to say "no." For those of us who have experienced trauma, we may have had our boundaries violated; our voices silenced. In adapting to repetitive traumatic situations, we may develop a high tolerance to these offenses and are reinforced to engage in people-pleasing behaviors, including ignoring our own needs/instincts. If this sounds like your experience, you may benefit from reading more about interpersonal effectiveness.

What is Interpersonal Effectiveness?

The skill of interpersonal effectiveness (IE) comes from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is the ability to interact in relationships skillfully by: practicing clear communication, asserting our rights, and preserving our own self-respect (Linehan, 2015). These skills are important and helpful to practice in any relational dynamic we want including family, friends, coworkers, strangers, etc.

Specific Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Depending on the situation and people we are communicating with, our priorities in interactions can differ. Feel free to mix and match the skills according to your needs summarized below:

How to Assert Our Rights

  • The DEARMAN skill focuses on goals that can be met through expressing your specific need and/or saying "no"

  • This is helpful in addressing conflicts

  • DEAR focuses on describing what our need is and MAN focuses on how we communicate these needs

    • Describe the situation and the change you need

    • Express your thoughts and feelings about the situation

    • Assert by asking for what you want

    • Reinforce why this need is important

    • Mindful of your tone of voice and what you want

    • Appear confident because you have a right to ask for what you want

    • Negotiate ideas to solve the problem

How to Be Effective in Relationships

  • The GIVE skill focuses on improving relationships that are important to you

  • This is helpful in maintaining healthy and meaningful relationships

  • We are acting in a way that allows both ourself and the other person to feel heard as well as understood

  • The intended outcome of practicing this skill are the feelings we take away from the interaction, including mutual feelings of validation and understanding

    • Gentleness and kindness in our communication

    • Interest in what the other person is saying

    • Validate the other person and consider their point of view

    • Easy manner through smiling or using humor if appropriate to do so

How to Preserve Our Self-Respect

  • The FAST Skill focuses on maintaining our self-respect

  • Rather than avoiding or denying our experience, we benefit from being honest with ourself and the other person

  • This helps to ensure we do not go against our own values or beliefs

    • Fairness to ourself and the other person

    • Apologize only if appropriate

    • Stick to values

    • Truthful

As humans, we are constantly growing, learning, unlearning, and evolving into the version of ourselves we want to be. It can take time to work through deeply ingrained patterns of how we relate to others and ourselves. Through practice, patience, and self-compassion, we can learn to honor our needs/rights and cultivate quality relationships that work for us!

If you are interested in learning more about how to maintain healthy relationships and implement effective communication skills, you can reach out to us here.

Stay tuned. Our next topic is "Grief from Suicide Loss."


Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual. The Guilford Press.

Written by Susanna La, Ph.D.

Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D.

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