How to Ask for Something and Get It: Using the DEAR MAN Technique for Communication
Let’s face it – asking for something can be difficult and intimidating. Most people get nervous asking permission from parents to stay out late, a favor from a friend, or extra time on an assignment from a teacher. In school, good communication skills are not always taught to us, but luckily there is a simple and effective technique to make a request. The technique is called DEAR MAN, and it is an acronym with each letter representing its own skill. This technique can be used to resolve a conflict or make a request in an effective way that maintains a relationship. When used correctly and with practice, it can help to make hard conversations easier!
The DEAR MAN Skill was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1990’s, a Dialectical Behavior Therapist. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy created to help someone going through mental health issues control their emotions, handle hard situations, mindfulness, and communicate with others. However, it can be used by everyone to make us all better communicators.
Before you ask for anything, it is important to make sure the time and place are right. It’s best to make your request in a quiet setting without distractions and when the person you are asking is calm and in a good mood. It’s almost always better to have a difficult conversation in person than over text or phone. Often, the meaning of texts can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Sometimes, the best place to have a conversation is on a walk around the neighborhood or scenic drive. This is because it can be less awkward to have a hard conversation when you don’t need to make direct eye contact, and each person can focus on what one another is saying. Below is the DEAR MAN acronym explained, as stated on the Sunrise resource below.
Describe the situation in a simple way. Only use facts in the description, and leave feelings for later on.
Express your feelings using “I” statements. By using “I,” it shows the other person that you are accountable for yourself. The reason for doing this is that it prevents the other person from going into defense mode.
Assert yourself by directly asking for what you want. It is important to be clear and strong in your request without any hesitation or beating around the bush.
Reinforce what you want by making sure the other person knows exactly why they should help you out.
Mindful. In this step, be mindful of the other person’s feelings. Make sure they know you are keeping their feelings in mind and considering their point of view
Appear Confident. No matter how nervous or unsure you are, it’s important to appear strong and confident. Basically, fake it until you make it! When you appear confident, it makes it harder for the other person to turn you down, and makes it seem like you’ve really thought through your request.
Negotiate. Finally, you must remember that the other person isn’t obligated to say yes. Most of the time, you should anticipate that you may need to alter your request and compromise with the other person. In the end, DEAR MAN is about resolving a problem together and coming up with a solution that works for everyone!
Let’s Use DEAR MAN in Conversation!
Sarah is a 16 year-old girl who just got her driver’s license and her sister’s hand-me-down Toyota. Sarah already gets $10 in allowance for doing chores, but wants more money each week so she can go to lunch with her friends on Fridays. Sarah is asking her parents for a bigger allowance.
Describe: Sarah says, “I am 16 which means I can drive now. There are more opportunities to do things with friends, like get lunch or go to the movies. I would like to get lunch with my friends on Fridays after school.”
Express: “I understand that being older and having the privilege to drive means I have more responsibilities. I also know that I am accountable for my actions while I am away.”
Assert: “I would like $20 a week more in allowance money. I want this money to pay for gas to and from school, and so that I can go out to lunch with my friends on Fridays.”
Reinforce: “I should be able to receive a bigger allowance because I am getting good grades, working hard at sports practice, and I still do my daily chores around the house. I want to show you that I can take on more responsibility now that I am older.”
Mindful: “I know you already give me $10 a week for allowance, and I am grateful for your support and generosity. I understand that I am asking a lot of you, but I have thought about this a lot.”
Appear Confident: “I know I am capable of being responsible and I will not let you down.”
Negotiate: Eventually, Sarah and her parents were able to agree upon a $15 increase in allowance, as long as she promises to keep her car clean and be home by curfew every night. Sarah was happy to come to a compromise. She still got what she wanted, and her parents felt like they got something out of it too!
Hopefully you will able to use some of these skills next time you need to ask for something or have a hard conversation. Adults will be impressed with your empathy and maturity! Chances are, they will be more likely to grant your request!
Mimi is a junior at University of Nevada, Reno studying Nutritional Science. She has been a Student Ambassador for 3 months and hopes to enter the health care field.