Relationships can be tough.

It’s very common for substance use to further complicate relationships and make interacting with others difficult. These skills are designed to help us be effective in our relationships, and build up the way we communicate with others.

We interact with others for three main reasons, to;

  •  Get a result (e.g. convincing a salesman to give you a cheaper deal) 
  •  Maintain our self-respect (e.g. standing up for yourself)
  • Keep or improve a relationship (e.g. letting go of a short term goal to benefit a good long term relationship.) Sometimes this is the main reason but often it is in addition to getting a result, or maintaining self-respect. Remember that always sacrificing your own needs for the good of the relationship will not work in the long term.

While it is important to understand our main reason for interacting in a specific situation, all three can play a part in our communication.

Get your needs met (DEAR MAN)Maintain a relationship (GIVE)Keep self-respect (FAST)Middle Ground

Get your needs met (DEAR MAN)

This is an acronym to help you remember tips for being effective in getting your needs met.
Describe Begin by objectively and without judgement, describing the situation. This means focusing on observable facts; try thinking about how a third party might look at it.
Express Share how you feel about it. This tells the other person what is important for you.
Assert Ask for what you want or say no clearly.
Reinforce Identify what the benefits might be for the other person; use this to motivate them.
(stay) Mindful Maintain your position. Think of yourself as a 'broken record' that keeps asking, saying no, or expressing your opinion over and over again. Don't get distracted by attacks or diversions; stay on topic.
Appear confident Use a confident voice tone and make sure your body language and eye contact is appropriate. It's normal to be nervous, but fake it until you make it.
Negotiate Be willing to give to get. You may need to offer alternative solutions, reduce your request, or maintain saying no but help out in another way if you can.

Maintain a relationship (GIVE)

This is an acronym to help keep or improve a relationship.
(be) Gentle Remember to be nice and respectful in your approach. Don't threaten or judge.
(act) Interested Listen to the other person's opinion without 'mind-reading.' If you aren't interested try to appear as though you are.
Validate Acknowledge the other person's thoughts and feelings, and communicate that they are understandable. Even if you disagree, still validate that you get why they have a different opinion.
(Use an) Easy manner Be light hearted and use a little humour where appropriate.

Keep self-respect (FAST)

This is an acronym to help keep or improve your own self-respect.
(be) Fair Be fair to both yourself and others. It is hard to like yourself if you are always taking advantage of others, or if you are always putting others first.
(no) Apologies Don't over-apologise, and don't apologise for having an opinion or disagreeing. Only apologise if it is warranted, and be effective by clearly apologising for the specific behaviour, and only do it once.
Stick to values Know what values are important to you, and don't sell out.
(be) Truthful Don't lie or act helpless.

Middle Ground

Remember that relationships are made up of transactions; you both get something out of the interaction. To be effective you will need to think about situations from all viewpoints; find some truth in what the other person is saying. Nothing is ever black or white; find the grey in the middle, so that you can balance your own priorities with the needs of others. You will also need to balance change and acceptance; although we can change our own behaviour to influence others, we also need to practice accepting others as they are.