DEAR MAN – An Effective Communication Tool

Here, in her latest post, Penni shares a communication tool, taken from Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), that can be used when achieving an objective in an interpersonal interaction is required.

For some of us, the prospect of raising an issue or asserting ourselves within our relationships with our partners, friends, colleagues or employers can feel very daunting. Below is an example of ‘DEAR MAN’, a tool that forms part of DBT’s ‘Interpersonal Effectiveness’ skill, that can be used when you would like to obtain an objective in an interaction with another whilst being respectful to both yourself and the other person.

The acronym ‘DEAR’ refers to what you say and ‘MAN’ refers to how to say it.


Describe – state the facts about the situation you’d like to address, using non-judgmental language.

e.g. “I do all the housework”


Express – say how you feel about the situation using ‘I’ statements and avoid blaming or criticizing.

e.g. “I feel overwhelmed and weighed down by this extra burden to my already busy schedule”


Assert – ask for what you want. Be clear and direct.

e.g. “I don’t want to be the only one doing the housework anymore. I’d like it to be shared between us”


Reinforce/Reward – state what the positive outcome may be if your request is agreed to (and make sure you follow through with this) or, if agreement has already been reached, offer thanks and appreciation.

e.g. “If I have a bit less to do around the house, we’ll be able to have more quality time together”


Mindful – stay focused on your goal, avoid distractions or being drawn into an argument. Repeat yourself if necessary.


Act Confident – make eye contact, stand straight and appear assertive (even if you don’t really feel it!)


Negotiate – be willing to compromise, or meet half way. Offer different solutions if necessary, or ask the other person to suggest some. Be realistic about what might work, whilst keeping your goal in mind.

e.g. “I know you hate cleaning the bathroom, so how about I do that and we take it in turns to dust and hoover the other rooms?”

Achieving an objective whilst being respectful to self and other


You can practice DEAR MAN ahead of time, perhaps by writing it out and rehearsing it in your mind, or by testing it out on a friend. Be clear on your goal and think about what compromises you would be willing to make. Feeling comfortable with what you plan to say and confident that what you are asking for is reasonable will help you be calm in the moment.

About DBT

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy was originally created by Dr Marsha Linehan for those experiencing difficulty regulating emotion. DBT combines behavioural and cognitive therapies with mindfulness and consists of four key skills to be learned and practiced. Many of the tools and sub-skills that make up DBT can be beneficial for everyone. There are a number of DBT self-help resources available online for those who may be interested in finding out more, as well as DBT trained therapists for those seeking more in-depth assistance.

About the author
Counsellor Penni Osborn
Penni Osborn
Penni Osborn is a counsellor working at Anglia Counselling Ltd where she meets with adults, offering kind and compassionate help with anxiety, depression, CEN and difficult or overwhelming emotions, both online and in person. Penni also offers non-judgemental support and guidance for those seeking to explore their experiences in order to achieve enhanced personal growth, positive change and greater happiness.