Getting What You Actually Want from your Partner— Part Two: Creating a Script to Use in Conversation
Once you have your goals prioritized, it is time to think about and write what you want to say in the conversation. DBT provides a great template to assist us in asking for our needs to be met. This template can also be used to say ‘no’ to requests from others.
The script is called DEAR MAN, an acronym for each step you write.
Let’s dive in!
Describe—When asking someone for something, you want to ensure you are both on the same page. With describe, you are “setting the stage” for the conversation. For example, if you want your partner to spend more time talking with you, the description may look like this:
“I have noticed that in the last month, we haven’t been spending quality time with each other, like cuddling on the couch or going for walks together.”
Notice the use of ‘I’ and ‘we.’ When we use “you,” it can seem as if we are blaming the other person, so try to stick with ‘I’ statements as much as possible. Also, note that the description in this example is two sentences long. A good rule of thumb is 1-4 sentences to set the stage. We don’t have to bring up all the other times in the past our partner hasn’t spent quality time with us or how they used their phone too much. If we are explicitly asking for more quality time, we are describing what quality time is and what we have observed, not anything else.
Express—Regardless of what we are asking for, we must express our thoughts and emotions about the matter. This helps our partner understand why the request is important to us. Building off of the example above, the express may look like this:
“I miss spending quality time with you. I feel disconnected and distant from you when we don’t get that time together.”
Notice the ‘I’ statements again and the length of our expression. Once again, we don’t have to go on and on about how the describe makes us feel. 1-3 sentences will suffice.
Assert—The assertion is the whole point of the script! When asserting, we want to ask and be straightforward. The assert is 1-2 sentences and may look like this:
“Can we spend 15 minutes of quality time together daily?”
No beating around the bush. No adding “if that is okay with you.” No saying “I’m sorry” or any other modifiers or descriptors. We want to ensure our assert leads to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from our partner. So stating, “I would like to have more quality time with you,” may not get your request granted because your partner can say “okay,” and that is the end. You want to secure a yes or a no to implement change, and an “okay” is only an acknowledgment of what you stated.
Reinforce—Whether we like it or not, we are more likely to get a request granted if there is something in it for the other person. A reinforcement for the above example may look like this:
“If we spend more quality time together, I think it’ll improve our relationship.” Another example could be “I know I’d be less irritable and sad when you came home from work if we spent quality time together.” or even “If we do 15 minutes of quality time, that means you will still have time for ________ after!” If we are stuck rattling our brains for a reinforcer and can’t think of one, you can always use, “I would appreciate it if you would do this.” You can use this for any request.
So given what we have reviewed above, the first half of your script may look like this:
“I have noticed that in the last month, we haven’t been spending quality time with each other, like cuddling on the couch or going for walks together. I miss spending quality time with you. I feel disconnected and distant when we don’t get that time together. Can we spend 15 minutes of quality time together daily? If we do 15 minutes of quality time, that means you will still have time for ________ after!”
Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series ‘The MAN,’ how to increase the likelihood of getting our request met with three more easy steps.