• Interpersonal effectiveness: What is it?

    These are the skills that help us build and maintain relationships, resolve conflicts, and ensure our wants and needs are being met effectively. They also build our sense of self-respect, personal values, and boundaries


    There are THREE main goals of interpersonal effectiveness:

    1. Getting what you want and need from others: This is how we convince others to do what we want them to do. When we do this, we can get others to take us more seriously. We can also learn to say no effectively and set appropriate boundaries for ourselves.
    2. Build positive and supportive relationships (and end destructive ones): Doing these skills helps us to strengthen current relationships. We learn how to not allow our emotions to build up and to use our skills to prevent problems from getting worse. We can also use these skills to repair relationships when needed and resolve conflicts before they get overwhelming. As we learn and grow throughout our life, we continue to find and build new relationships. In this process, we also learn when to end toxic and unproductive relationships.
    3. Walk the middle path: With interpersonal effectiveness skills, we learn to create and maintain balance in relationships. Through this, we also learn to balance and accept change within ourselves and others.



    The number one factor that prevents you from using interpersonal effectiveness skills and having healthy relationships is not having the skills that you need.


    Other factors that get in the way are:

    • You don't know what you want: You may have all the skills, but struggle with decision making and telling the other person what you want. You also can't balance your needs versus someone else's. When you do this, you will either ask for too much or nothing at all. You can also tend to either say no to everything or give in to it all. There is no happy medium here.
    • Your emotions get in the way: You allow your emotions to control your decisions instead of you controlling them. You forget long-term goals for short term ones: Your immediate urges get in the way of making progress on your long-term goals. The future seems so distant and often unattainable that it vanishes from your mind.
    • Other people get in your way: You feel that others are more powerful than you. Or you feel that they will be threatened by you or won't like you if you get what you want. You may also fear people won't do what you want unless you sacrifice your self-respect, even if only a little.
    • Your own thoughts and beliefs get in the way: You are your own worst enemy. Worries about negative consequences if you ask for what you want, or say no to someone, prevent you from acting effectively and meeting your own needs. Beliefs that you don't deserve what you want will stop you from even trying to reach for your goals. Not believing that others deserve their hard work paying off will also cause you to be ineffective.

  • GIVE

    This skill focuses on others to help build and maintain relationships.

    We do this by balancing our own wants, needs, and desires with those of others.

    Healthy relationships are grounded in validation and genuine interest.

    This is the key to resolving conflicts.


    Be honest, sincere, and real with others. Speak and act from your heart with caring words and actions. Use mindfulness to be fully present with others in the moment. Let others know that you value them and treat them with respect.


    This comes from efforts to connect with people. Let others have the focus. Actively listen and pause to take space before responding. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Be mindful of your nonverbal communication. Nonverbals communicate a great deal of information to others, both intentionally and unintentionally. Nonverbally, interest is communicated by looking at the person, making appropriate eye contact, and keeping your posture open and relaxed.


    Nonjudgmentally acknowledge the other person's feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and experience. This is "walking a mile in their shoes" and seeing life from their perspective. We validate when we find other people's truth and how their experiences make sense given their life circumstances and the situation. Remember to validate yourself too!


    Treat others with kindness and a relaxed attitude. It also means not being heavy handed with our judgments, opinions, and viewpoints. Allow space for others. With boundary setting, we can always raise this intensity as needed. It is typically most effective to start with a relaxed and laid-back manner.

  • FAST

    With these skills, we focus on self-respect and developing a healthy relationship with yourself. This includes our own priorities, goals, and values so that we can ensure our decisions align with those things. When we build our relationship with ourselves, it gives a solid foundation to build effective relationships with others.


    Take a nonjudmental stance with yourself and others. Avoid extremes and ground yourself in interactions with others. Think of fair weather being neither too hot nor too cold and without storms. Keep a moderate climate with others without whipping up the bad weather. Use repectful words and actions with yourself and others. Others do NOT need to earn your respect. We treat others with respect because it builds our own self-worth. Respond rather than react in relationships.


    Do not engage in unneeded apologetic behavior. Do not apologize for having an opinion or for your own viewpoints. You are allowed to disagree. Do not apologize for being you. Avoid apologies for things over which you have no control. Chronice, unnecessary apologies erode self-respect and devalue apologies that are genuinely needed. This does not apply to situations that require apologies such as hurting someone.


    Use your priorities, values, and goals as guides and ground yourself in them. Choose behaviors and have interactions with others that build your self-respect. Identify what is important to you and stick to it. Know what values are non-negotiable, and when values conflict, work to resolve the conflict. Live your life grounded in values.


    Be honest and accountable with yourself and others. Sometimes we avoid the truth because we are afraid of the consequences. Trying to deceive others destroys self-respect and often causes greater problems. Even if you have a great memory and can avoid getting tangled in a web of lies, YOU will still know the truth. Being accountable is more effective. Act in a manner that respects your true abilities. Avoid feigned helplessness and excuses. Take responsibility for yourself!


    This skill teaches us assertiveness.

    With DEAR MAN, we can ensure that our wants and needs are met more reliably.

    We can also learn to say no, set boundaries, and negotiate when needed.

    In this skill set, we can also build confidence and competence.


    Outline the situation in nonjudgmental language. Just state the facts. Look specifically at the factors that will support your request, your reason for saying no, or your need for a boundary.


    Share your opinions and feelings if they relate and will help others to understand the situation. Sometimes you may choose to not include this step.


    Ask clearly for what you want or need, say no, or set your boundary. Establish your goals up front so you know what you want out of the situation. Work to be straight forward and matter of fact. This step is ESSENTIAL. Visualize your "superhero stance" in your head as you move into this phase. If this stage is skipped, no one will know what you want or need.


    Let others know what is in it for them. How will meeting your wants and needs, accepting your refusal, or respecting your boundaries benefit the relationship? Focus on rewards and reinforcement over threats. Create opportunities for others to feel positive about their help and respect for you. Sometimes we need to discuss consequences instead of rewards, especially with setting appropriate boundaries. Be matter of fact. Avoid ultimatums that will box everyone in.


    Use a "broken record" approach. Others will often try to change the subject or throw in comments to get you off track. Repeat your request or limits over and over again. Be aware when the broken record technique is not working and switch strategies accordingly.


    Act as if you feel confident, even if you do not. Pretend you have the confidence you have seen someone else model. Use an assertive tone of voice, make eye contact, and use confident body language. Be mindful of your facial expressions and keep them neutral. Use nonverbal communication to your advantage. Write down and practice your skills, preferrably in a mirror, so that you can feel more confident in the actual situation.


    This means that we strike compromises and are willing to give to get. Decide what compromises make sense if you cannot meet your desired goal. If you get stuck, turn the issue over to the other person for options to solve it. You can say "What do you think will work?" This is a dialectical strategy that can help you get your wants and needs met someplace in the middle. In some cases, negotiation might not be an option, such as with boundary setting.


    We all have conflicts with others at some point. Sometimes we may try to avoid conflicts at all costs. Conflict resolution takes a balance of skills. Use the following steps to guide you through the process effectively.


    1. Address issues proactively with DEAR MAN to keep the potential for and intensity of conflicts lower.
    2. When in conflict, step back to see if you and others are in Wise Mind. If you want to win or be "right" more than seeking understanding and resolution, you are probably not in Wise Mind. Emotion mind conflicts are rarely effective. If you or the other person are not in Wise Mind, disengage and discuss the issue later. Use Distress Tolerance skills before coming back to address the issue.
    3. Consider the relevant issues. Use Wise Mind to consider whether this is a conflict worth having right now with this person. Consider your priorities, goals, values, and nature of the conflict. Pick your conflicts wisely!
    4. Use FAST throughout any interpersonal situation and especially with conflict situations. Lowering yourself to another person's "level" will decrease your self- respect and wil rarely result in an effective outcome.
    5. Start with "active listening" and GIVE. Think about companies with great customer service. They avoid arguing and listen instead. Then they let you know they understand your problem. This approach frequently diffuses arguments.
    6. Use a nonjudgmental stance and you might find that you agree with at least some of what the other person has to say. Breathe and give some space before you respond. Many conflicts escalate because of a mutual lack of listening coupled with rapid-fire responses.
    7. Use DEAR MAN effectively. Be clear about your wants and needs, saying no, or setting boundaries. Do so in a matter of fact way without calling names, judging, labeling, or getting into extremes.
    8. Use Radical Acceptance when conflicts are not resolved or when others are upset and angry. Not all conflicts have an immediate resolution. Sometimes we need to step away and let it be. When resolution seems unlikely, or when conflict is escalating, gently disengage yourself and agree to revisit it later.
    9. Negotiation and making Wise Mind decisions are useful. Stay away from all or nothing in situations. Focus on dialectic thinking and walking the middle path.
    10.  Above all remember, all of these things take time and practice to learn and reinforce. Have patience with yourself and others in this process.

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    This website is intended for information and educational purposes only. No information presented is intended for counseling or treatment. Use of this website does not form a counseling relationship. For more information please contact me at blair@blairbucklerlpc.com

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