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Assertion Skills For Women: Using DBT Skills For Better Health

Apr 18, 2008
**Please remember that no part of this article is intended to take the place of professional or medical advice. This article provides limited information and does not attempt to diagnosis or treat any illnesses or disorder. Please contact a qualified professional, regarding any health or mental health need.**

There is much discussion about depression and anxiety in women. This is an important topic for all women, because our emotional and mental health has a direct impact on our physical health. Women tend to be nurturers and caretakers and usually we take these responsibilities very seriously, so seriously that it is easy to neglect our own needs. This is usually not a healthy choice for ourselves. It is also not good for those who depend on us because, to give our best, we must be at our best. To be at our best, we must give ourselves the best care, which means, first and foremost, talking to our doctor about any feelings of depression or anxiety we may have.

Although, the causes of depression and anxiety are complex, one factor can be a sense of powerlessness. Believing that we can get what we want and need, is one of the best antidotes to powerlessness. So, in addition to seeking medical treatment for symptoms of depression and anxiety, being assertive and learning assertion skills can have a positive effect on a woman's health and mental health. Learning assertion skills for women can be difficult, but here is a specific technique that may help.

The technique below was developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D as part of her overall Dialectical Behavior Therapy treatment for people with some pretty serious mental health issues, which include long term depression and anxiety. This does not mean that this technique is just for those who are ill. Most of her treatments emphasize life skills, that are used by healthy and effective people all over the world. You can learn more about her treatments at dbtselfhelp.com.

This skill for interpersonal effectiveness and better mental health uses the acronym DEAR MAN to help us remember each step.

D: Describe the situation. Try to keep it simple and to the point. People stop paying attention if you become too wordy. Avoid statements that judge and blame.

E: Express your feelings or opinions about the situation.

A: Assert your wishes. Ask for what you want. No judging or blaming others for not knowing.

R: Reinforce. Reward the other person for respecting you or explain why your request would benefit both of you.

M: Mindful-remain mindful of what you want. Don't allow yourself to be distracted. Don't focus on unrelated issues that others brings up.

A: Act confident--you have every right to ask for what you want.

N: Negotiate--Be willing to listen to alternatives or ask for suggestions.

Here is what asserting yourself with this technique might be like if, for example, you wanted more help with clean up after dinner.

* Describe the situation: "I have been expected to clean up the kitchen each night after dinner." Avoid things like, "No one cares about how much work I have to do." "Nobody ever helps me." "You are so lazy and selfish", etc, you know the drill.

* Express your feelings or opinions about the situations: "I do not want to do it anymore." or "I become frustrated, because then I don't have time (or energy) to do other things that are important to me."

* Assert your wishes: "I would like you to clean up after dinner." "I want your help in organizing the kids to do the kitchen clean up."

* Reinforce or reward: "Thank you so much for taking this seriously" or "If I get your cooperation on this, I will have more energy (time or interest) to devote to ..." or "If I can get your help with this, I will be in a much better mood in the evening."

* Mindful: "That is a concern for another time, right now I want to find a solution to the kitchen clean up." Avoid bringing up other grievances or frustrations yourself.

* Act confident: Use phrases such as "I want...", "I would like..."

* Negotiate: "If every night does not work, maybe we can try every other night." or "Let's try it for a week and see how it works".

Remember to keep it simple. It can be helpful to write down what you plan to say, read through it and then make changes, before actually having the discussion. Asserting yourself may take some practice, but try to be patient with yourself and others as you learn this skill. The rewards for effectively asserting yourself will have lifelong benefits for you and your entire family.
About the Author
Linda Rolufs is the mother of five children and a practicing Marriage and Family Therapist. Visit her website - AMothersMinute.com - a place that celebrates the experience of motherhood and affirms each mother's own unique wisdom. You will find great parenting ideas for moms, year round family fun and women's health topics.
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