Interpersonal Relationships

Relationships are a part of our everyday life, and vital in our social network. They are very precious but yet vulnerable and can be broken beyond repair in a matter of seconds. Relationships take time and hard work to keep them going from both sides, if one or both sides of the relationship aren’t putting in 100% then the relationship will not work.

Interpersonal relationship skills are needed to help maintain relationships and to make sure that both parties are treated fairly and with respect. With people diagnosed with BPD these skills seem to either be completely missing or are only partially there. This lack of skills makes a person diagnosed with BPD feel very rejected and hurt when they aren’t able to get what they want out of the relationship and feel like they have been taken for granted.

To maintain a healthy relationship with anyone, a friend, family, partner, co worker etc you need to notice the other person, their feelings and reactions. Using the mindfulness skills you can observe facial expression, body language and tone of voice used during a conversation to get an idea on the mood and state of the relationship. Being mindful you can focus on the here and now, really listen to what the other person is saying without judgement. By being alert you can be aware of confrontation before it arrives and reduce being overwhelmed and avoid misunderstanding.

Attend to Relationships
-Don’t let hurts and problems build up or they will become overwhelming and produce black and white thinking.
-Use relationship skills to head off problems. If a friend or partner has upset you, calmly tell them that you’re upset. If it is justified then your friend or partner should apologise. If it’s not justified then you need to use radical acceptance of the situation.
-End hopeless relationships. If you’re the only one putting everything in the relationship and the other side is constantly taking without giving anything back then they are unhealthy for you.
-Resolve conflicts before they become overwhelming. By being mindful of the conversation you can be aware of any trouble coming and be able to solve it before it gets out of hand.

Balancing priorities vs. demands
-if overwhelmed, reduce or put off low priority demands. Choose what needs to be done first.
-Ask for help if needed and say no when necessary
-If not enough to do, try to create some structure and responsibility, offer to do things.

Balancing the wants to the shoulds
-Look at what you do, you do it because you “want” to do it and enjoy it and how much you do it because it has to be done and you “should” do it. Try to keep the number in balance even if you have to:
-Get your opinions taken seriously
-Get others to do things
-Say no to unwanted requests

Building MASTERY and self respect
-Interact in a way that makes you feel competent and effective, not helpless and overly dependant
-Stand up for yourself, your beliefs and opinions; follow your own wise mind

Goals of Interpersonal Effectiveness

Objective effectiveness – getting your objectives and goals in a situation
In every relationship each party is trying to get what they need and want, sometimes it is the same thing as the other party like friendship or relationship, joy, fun etc. But sometimes one party may want something the other party doesn’t want to give and when that happens there is trouble for that relationship. For a relationship to succeed both sides must do the following:
-Be observant and notice what the other desires and needs
-Notice what you yourself needs and desires
-Compromise with each other so you both get some of what you want

If these needs aren’t balanced then the relationship will fall apart, following the above will help you to maintain a healthy relationship

-Obtaining your legitimate rights
-Getting another to do something
-Refusing unwanted or unreasonable requests
-Resolving an interpersonal conflict
-Getting your opinion or point taken seriously

1, what specific results or changing do I want from this interaction?
2, what do I have to do to get this result and what will work?

Relationship Effectiveness
Getting or keeping a good relationship
-Acting in a way that the other person keeps liking and respecting you after the interaction
-Balancing immediate goals with the good of long term relationships

-How do I want the other person to feel about me after the interaction is over?
-what do I have to do to get (or keep) this relationship?

Self Respect Effectiveness
Keeping or improving self respect and liking for yourself
-Respecting your own values and beliefs; acting in a way that makes you feel moral
-acting in a way that makes you feel capable and effective

-How do I feel about myself after the interaction is over?
-what do I have to do to feel that way about myself and what will work?

Factors reducing Interpersonal Effectiveness

Lack of Skill
-you actually don’t know what to say or do in the situation, how you should behave or achieve your objectives. You don’t know what will work

Worry Thoughts
Worry thoughts get into the way of your ability to act effectively, you have the ability but your anxious thoughts interfere with doing or saying what you want
-Worrying about bad consequences – If I join in with the conversation and speak they will think I’m stupid and wont like me
-Worrying about whether you deserve to get what you want in a relationship – do I actually deserve this I’m a bad person really?
-Worrying about not giving your everything in the relationship and being derogatory to yourself – I won’t do it right, it will probably fall apart, I’m stupid etc

-Being in emotional mind can really get in the way of you acting effectively in a relationship, the emotions can overrule your thoughts and abilities and instead of having skill your emotions will control what you say and do.

-You cannot decide what to do or what you actually want, you have the ability to decide but your indecision gets in the way of you being able to do or say what you wants, you are ambivalent about your priories and cannot figure out how to balance asking for too much vs. not asking for anything and saying no to everything vs. giving in to everything

The Environment
-The way the environment is makes it impossible for even a very skilled person to be effective. Skilful behaviour doesn’t work.
-Other people are too powerful
-Other people will be threatened or have some other reason for not liking you if you get what you want
-Other people won’t give you want you need or let you say no without punishing you unless you sacrifice yourself respect at least a little.

Cheerleading statements in Interpersonal Relationships

-Its ok to want or need something from someone else
-I have a choice to ask someone for what i want or need
-I can stand it if i don’t get what i want or need
-The fact that someone said no to my request doesn’t mean that i should not have asked them
-if i don’t get my objectives it doesn’t mean i didn’t go about it in a skilful way
-Standing up over small things can be just as important as big things to others
-I can insist on my rights and still be a good person
-i sometimes have a right to assert myself, even if i may be an inconvience to others
-The fact that others may not be assertive doesn’t mean that i shouldn’t be
-I can understand and still validate anoter person and still ask for what i want
-There is no law that says other peoples opinions are anymore valid that my own
-I may want to please people I care about but i don’t have to do it all the time
-Giving and giving is not the be all to this life I am an important person in this world too
-If I refuse to do a favour for another person it doesn’t mean i don’t like them and they should probably understand that too
-I am under no obligation to say yet someone just because they ask me to do a favour for them
-The fact that I say no to someone does not make me a selfish person
-If i say no to someone and they get angry it does not mean i should have said yes
-I can still feel good about myself despite someone else being annoyed with me

Guidelines in Objective Effectiveness – Getting what you want.

A way to remember these skills is to remember the term DEAR MAN


(stay) Mindful
Appear confident

Describe – Describe the current situation if necessary, tell the other person what your reacting to but stick to the facts
Express – Express your feelings and opinions about the situation and assume that yourfeelings and opinions are not self evident. Give a brief rationale. Use phrases such as I want and I don’t want instead of I need, you should and I cant.
Assert – Assert yourself by asking for what you want or saying no clearly
Reinforce – Reinforce or reward the person ahead of time by explaining consequences

Mindful (stay) – keep focus on your objectives – maintain your position and don’t be distracted. Be a “broken record” keep asking, saying no or expressing your opinion over and over.
Appear Confident – Appear effective and competent. Use confident tones of voice and physical manners, try not to stammer or shake your voice looking at the floor or retreating saying “im not sure” etc
Negotiate – Be willing to give to get. Compromise to solve the problems

Turn the tables
– Turn the issue over to the other person and ask them what they would do and ask for suggestions to solve the problem. “what do you think we should we do?” etc

Keeping the relationship

A way of remembering this phrase is GIVE

(be)     Gentle
(act)    Interested
(use an) Easy manner

(be) Gentle– Be courteous and temperate in your approach
– No attacks – No verbal or physical attacks, Express anger directly
– No threats – No malipulative statements, no hidden threats. No i’ll kill myself if you … Exit gracefully
– No judging – No moralizing. No If you were a good person (blackmail)

(act) Interested – listen and be interested in the other person –

Validate– Validate or acknowledge the other persons feelings, opinions, wants and needs of the situation, be non judgemental out loud.

(use an) Easy manner – Use a little humour – Smile – ease the person along and be light hearted.

Keeping your respect for yourself
An easy way to remember this is to remember the word FAST

(be) Fair
(no) Apologies
Stick to Values
(be) Truthful

(Be) Fair – Be fair to yourself and to the other person

(no) Apologies – No overly apologetic behaviour. No apologising for being alive or for making requests. Never apologise for having an opinion.

Stick to values – Stick to your own values – Dont sell out to others for reasons that aren’t very important, be clear on what you believe is the moral and valued way of thinking and stick to your guns

(be) Truthful – Dont lie or act helpless when your not and don’t exaggerate things. Don’t make up excuses.


Linehan, M. Skills training manual for treating borderline personality disorder. 1st. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 1994. Print.
McKay, M., J. C. Wood, and J. Brantley. The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook, practical dbt exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation &. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Pubns Inc, 2007. Print.

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