Article 12 of the DBT Series: DBT in the Real World; Skills in Action
You have heard it said that communication is a two-way street, right? Actually, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) suggests it is more of a three-way street.
In order to be effective, DBT says it is important to keep three important aspects in mind: Objectives, Relationships, and Self-respect. In fact, they use the lovely acronym, “ROSE” to capture this concept:
R – Relationships. What is in it for the other person? How will the interaction benefit them? How do you want them to feel about how you convey your thoughts?
O – Objectives. What do you want from the interaction?
S – Self-respect. What do you need to do to feel good about your part in the interaction?
E – Effectiveness. Keeping all three of these in mind may not result in always getting what you want, but in doing so, you will always be effective.
To best understand this, let’s see it in action.
Geri had a bone to pick with Sal. Only twelve hours had passed since they began to share an apartment and already the sink was full of dishes and the milk had been left out on the counter – and Sal was nowhere to be found. Geri fumed. Memories of past disappointments flooded her mind, fueling her anger. She wanted to scream and tell Sal off. Taking a seat on the couch, she began to imagine how the scenario would play out when she next saw Sal. Geri saw herself meeting her at the door so she would not have time to think of a lame excuse.
“Girl! I knew it! We have not even finished one full day together, and you already went back on your agreement to clean up after yourself! How were you raised? Don’t you know we can get bugs and flies if you stay so dirty like that? I need you to go in that kitchen and clean up right now and then get over to the store and replace the milk that went bad because wherever you had to be was so much more important than taking five seconds to put it back in the fridge. Honestly. Already? Is this what I have to look forward to every morning?”
The image of Sal’s sad and embarrassed face initially felt good. Geri liked being right. Even so, she knew she could never be that blunt. Instead, she figured that peacekeeping was the better goal. It probably would not do any good to confront Sal, anyway. The only option she really thought she had was to keep quiet and clean everything herself. Geri knew she would eventually feel resentful, but at least she would be thought of as nice. That was what mattered, right?
While imagining herself elbow deep in dirty dishes every day for the rest of her life, her DBT facilitator popped into her mind.
“Remember, in order to be effective, we must follow the ROSE path – know what you want while treating yourself and the relationship with respect.”
Geri knew what she wanted – a clean kitchen. She also knew she would not be treating herself with respect by ignoring that desire, nor would she treat Sal with dignity by using a negative tone or thinking her incapable of handling a boundary. Hmmm…This would take more consideration. She decided she would not assume anything but would give Sal time to decompress and then sit her down and ask what her thoughts were on the dishes and see if anything had gotten in the way of her plan to keep the kitchen clean. She would offer what help she could while staying firm that they each needed to put in their fair share of the work. Yes. This felt like a better solution.
As Geri sat thinking about conveying her message, she heard the front door burst open and Sal rush in, panting. “Hey, girl! Sorry about the mess in the kitchen. I wanted to use the old bananas I had to make some bread but realized we were out of butter. I ran to the corner store. There was a longer line than I expected. How did you sleep?”
Wow. It hit Geri like a ton of bricks. She was so glad she did not yell at Sal! This confirmed that a softer, more respectful approach was definitely the way to go.
Over time, it is common for hurts to build up between people, clouding our view of the current circumstances. Or, if we feel insignificant, we can tend to put ourselves in the back seat under the guise of “being nice”. However, resentment causes division, which is never the “nice” way to go. After all, the best thing you have to give is yourself and eventually, you will deprive others of your company if you feel hurt or used by them.
We need to keep in mind that we are in charge of our wants and our self-respect. It does not always feel this way, though. Communication is complicated. At The Center, our caring team will help you sort out these issues. We want to see your relationships thrive. If you find yourself angry and isolated, reach out. It will be worth the effort because YOU are worth the effort!
Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Training & Curriculum Consultant for The Center; A Place of Hope. As a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board-certified Group Psychotherapist, Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center is located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.