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3rd BlogDEAR MAN-
How to Ask for What You Want

By Deborah Spiegel MT-BC, CCHt
sponsor: dbtmusic.com

Think about a situation in which YOU could use this skill.   The skill is called DEAR  MAN.  It is a powerful communication tool created by Dr. Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT, and is valuable for anyone who has any interpersonal relationships, which is everyone.  It can be useful with co-workers, clients, family members, and more.  Hope you enjoy…but first:

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)  is a system of therapy developed by Dr. Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington. Although it was originally designed to treat people with borderline personality disorder, DBT is now being used as an empirically validated treatment for individuals with many different diagnoses. The DBT skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness are useful to everyone.

Music therapy lends itself to teach and reinforce DBT skills in its unique way and is valuable to any DBT treatment team and milieu. Use music therapy to teach and reinforce DBT skills, &/or to support your clients in DBT.

I am sharing with you an article I wrote for adolescents, so keep that in mind while you read the examples.

If you use this formula when you ask for something, you are more likely to get what you are asking for, keep or even improve your relationship with the person you’re asking, and keep your self-respect.  The formula is called DEAR MAN. It’s an acronym so each letter stands for something else.  Start out with DEAR.

Describe The Situation

Start out by giving the background rather than jumping right into asking.  Talk about why you want and deserve what you are asking for.  Think through all the facts that you can present to support your case.  What questions do you think they will want to ask you before they say yes?  Think about this ahead of time and answer the questions before they ask them. Stick to the facts and stay away from judgmental or blame statements.

“I haven’t had my cell phone for a month now. You took it away after the night I came home too late. I’ve been home and in bed by 10:00 every night since then. I’ve got good grades in all my classes now.  I’m being responsible and am even applying for part-time jobs.”

Express Your Feelings and Opinions

Explain how you feel and what you believe about the situation.

“I feel I have earned the privilege to have my phone back”

Assertively Ask or Say No

Ask directly for what you want.

“Will you give me back my phone now?”

Reinforce the Person You are Asking

Tell the person what’s in it for them to give it to you.

“If I had a phone I could call you and keep you posted about where I am and what I’m up to.  You could reach me at all times. I’m applying for part-time jobs so that I can help you pay for the phone bill.”

After asking this much, stop and listen to their response.  If they say yes, you’re done!  If no, or if they get off subject, or start blaming you for something… use the next part:  MAN


Stay focused on your goal. Keep asking and expressing your opinion over and over. If they threaten or blame you or try to pull you onto another subject ignore that and come back to your question.

They say “You were out late and irresponsible”

You say “that’s right and now I’m being responsible so can I have my phone?”

Appear Confident

Make eye contact, stand up straight, use a confident voice.


Negotiate for other options.  Give to get.

“If I can’t have it tonight can I have it tomorrow?”
“Can I use it for an hour and build up to all day…?”

If they keep saying no ask them, “If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”  In other words “What would it take for you to say yes?”  They will tell you.

After trying all of these things, if the answer is still no, then accept the no.


To keep the relationship if the person is important to you, (and you should really think about this because sometimes even though you don’t like someone or think that they are not important in your life, they are important in your getting what you want.  I tell the adolescents that this includes your principal, the police, the judge, your boss, your parents, the relationship with the person is important because they have a lot of say about your life or at least the outcome of the inquiry)  follow the next step, which is called GIVE:


Be courteous rather than attacking or judgmental.  Stay away from manipulative statements such as “I’ll kill myself if you don’t, or I’ll do x to you if you don’t”


Act interested in the other person’s point of view. Look at them in the eye.  Don’t interrupt or talk over them.  Listen to what they are saying. You don’t have to agree or disagree, just hear them; it really helps you get what you are asking for!


This goes along with acting interested.  Let the other person know that you heard them.  This is one of the most valuable relationship skills there is.  We as therapists learn about reflective listening.  This is the client’s opportunity to learn it.  I suggest to adolescents to “tell your mother ‘I hear you saying that you don’t trust me to actually pay for the phone’  or whatever she says to you.”  Then after that is when you can say your response.  When the person feels like you are hearing them they are more likely to give you what you are asking for.

Easy Manner

If your self-respect is on the line add FAST.


Be fair to yourself and the other person.

No Apologies

If an apology is warranted use one, otherwise don’t.  Don’t apologize for saying no or for asking. Let’s say you lent some money to a friend and are asking for it back.  Don’t say “You owe me money, I’m sorry for asking for it.”  No. You deserve it.  That was the agreement.  You have the right to ask for it and receive it back.

Stick to your Values

Do what you know is right. If someone asks you to do something that feels wrong to you say no. If your friend asks you to steal and that is against your values, say no.  If you are a vegetarian and are offered a meat meal, say no.  It’s your right.

Be Truthful

DEAR MAN is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill, created by Marsha Linehan.  (Skills Training Manual…Guilford Press 1993)  There is also a new DBT® Skills Training Manual, Second Edition  – October 20, 2014.

Use music therapy to teach and reinforce DBT skills, &/or to support your clients in DBT.

I hope you found this useful and I look forward to reading your thoughts. Try it out and let us know how it goes.

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