atom tips

30th April 2015
By Hannah Slapper

They say that teamwork is dreamwork but, if we’re honest, the main thing that makes your 9-5 difficult is all the other people. As soon as you have to interact with someone, whether it’s a client, a colleague or a customer – you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of problematic disagreements.

One of the trickiest things is communicating your feelings in a manner that fully explains why you think that your way is the right way. When you’re feeling frustrated or emotional, it’s easy to get embroiled in petty arguments, or to avoid conflict altogether and end up in a situation that feels totally wrong. Luckily, a psychologist from the ‘90s has some tips that could make all the difference.

In 1993, Psychologist Dr Marsha Linehan wrote her influential book, Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. It was a serious book for a serious mental health disorder, that focused on Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – a specific type of CBT, which mixes mindfulness and wise thinking. In her writings, she set out a new tactic for what she termed ‘objectives effectiveness’ – i.e. getting what you want!

This strategy is now used as a useful problem solving tool, and a way for people to frame requests in a way that aims to achieve the desired result, keep a positive relationship and maintain self respect. It’s called the D-E-A-R-M-A-N, and it goes something like this.

D is for DESCRIBE

When you start the conversation, tell the person exactly what the problem is, using only facts.

You haven’t CC’d me on any of your emails today.

E is for EXPRESS

This is the point where you tell them how it made you feel, and how it has affected you personally or professionally.

It has made me feel very out of the loop, which makes me panic. Also, it means I can’t plan my day properly, because I don’t know what work is coming up.

A is for ASSERT

Now you have to tell them exactly what you want to happen – tell them about your desired outcome.

I would like you to CC me in all emails relating to our shared projects from now on.

R is for REINFORCE

And explain why this will also benefit them, what they stand to gain or lose from complying with, or ignoring, your request.

I think this will really help our working relationship as I will be less stressed, and more understanding of our current workload. I’ll also be more likely to help you out if I know what’s going on.

Naturally, people don’t always sit and nod when you explain an issue you have with them, so the M-A-N part is to help you deal with defensive or uncooperative behaviour.

M is for MINDFUL

People often use the ‘throwback’ tactic, and will start pointing fingers at you, or bringing up other situations. Always stick to the topic at hand, and don’t allow yourself to become distracted. Don’t be afraid to be a broken record – it’s vital that this issue is resolved before you move on.

“I want you to CC me in all your emails from now on”
“You CC me in too many emails! I get so many emails from you I can’t handle it!”
“Ok, I wasn’t aware of this. It must be frustrating but we can discuss it after we’ve sorted this out. Right now we’re talking about how I’d like you to CC me in all your emails”

A is for ACT CONFIDENT

Some people thrive off conflict and can be particularly strong or combative when you try and address personal problems. If you’re a naturally peaceful person, it can be very easy to apologise or crumble. It’s vital that you keep a strong, calm tone to your voice and a powerful stance. No tears, no fears, no backing down!

“I want you to CC me in all your emails from now on”
“I’m sorry I don’t have the time. It’s not important enough. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“This is important to me and we’re going to have this discussion. I’d like you to listen to my reasons before you dismiss them completely”

N is for NEGOTIATE

As brilliant as this method is, some people are so stubborn that they won’t see past their own wants and needs. At this point, you’ll have to start looking for ways to give a little and get a little in return. If they’re still unresponsive, don’t be afraid to put this on them, and demand that they think of a solution you’re both happy with.

“There’s absolutely no way that I’m CCing you in all my emails”
“Then we’ll have to think of a compromise. You can update me with all your work or a summary of events every week, or you can think of another solution that we’re both happy with. But things are not continuing as they are, because I am not satisfied with the current situation.”

It seems scary at first, but using this clever little framework can really help to communicate how rational your thinking is, while also expressing any emotional hardship and suggesting a positive solution to the problem.

As with any tactical speaking, it’s better to practise on small conversations first, before tackling big issue, but we recommend using this as a reason to suck up your courage and fix the thing that’s been bugging you at work.

The best news is that even if it doesn’t work, you’ll feel so much better for getting your thoughts out in a respectable, rational way. We can’t guarantee you’ll get your own way, but we can guarantee you’ll feel pretty awesome about yourself. And that’s worth more than anything.