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DBT Skills for Effective Living:
Interpersonal Effectiveness

True or False: "Saying no to a request is always a selfish thing to do." If you answered True, you may be under the influence of an interpersonal myth. These are beliefs or "rules" that people operate by in relationships -- "rules" which can end up causing relationship problems. Interpersonal myths can prevent you from behaving in ways that promote positive, satisfying relationships. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy, participants learn to move beyond interpersonal myths by identifying and challenging them.

Perhaps the most common type of interpersonal myth has to do with making requests and saying "no" to requests. Most of us can point to a situation where we should have been more firm in making a request or saying no to someone. Myths we hold can get in the way of asking or saying "no" as firmly or as often as necessary in order to manage relationships effectively. Common interpersonal myths regarding making requests include: "Asking for things is a very pushy (or bad, or selfish, or fill-in-the-blank-with-a-negative) thing to do," "I must really be inadequate if I can't fix this without asking for help," "Unless I'm sure I'll get a 'yes' I'd better not ask." Realistically, figuring out whether or not to make a request and how firm to be in asking is usually based on many factors, rather than any single "rule" such as these. And even though there might be a small grain of truth in each of these statements under very specific circumstances, none of them applies across the board. The same holds true for myths about saying no, such as "If I say no someone will get upset and I won't be able to deal with that," or "I don't have the right to say no." Again, potentially true under a very narrow range of circumstances, but too narrow and simple to function as a "rule" that governs all interactions.

Identifying the beliefs or rules by which we interact can be a challenge in itself. Psychotherapy can be helpful in doing that. Once you've identified an interpersonal rule, how do you know if it's actually a myth? One way to tell is if the rule applies to you, but doesn't make as much sense when you think about applying it to other people. Another way is to intentionally break a rule about interacting (in a situation where it won't matter if the worst happens) and see what happens -- do other people really respond the way your rule predicted they would? If not, it was probably a myth. Once you've identified a myth, how can you stop relying on it as a rule that governs your behavior? One way is to think about what you'd say to a friend who stated your myth to you as if it was hers. How would you convince her that it wasn't true? Now, remember what you'd say and say it to yourself when you need to. By identifying and challenging interpersonal myths in these ways, you can increase your capacity to behave effectively in relationships.

To learn more about group or individual DBT, call Niquie Dworkin
at 773-472-8587.

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Interpersonal Effectiveness

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