Social Skills From DBT: 3 Phrases To Keep In Mind


DBT teaches different skills to self-check and modify our own behavior in the moment. These skills can mean the difference between connection and discomfort in everyday life. Below, find three easy-to-remember phrases that will help your social skills with minimal effort: DEAR MAN, GIVE, and FAST.

These 3 phrases can help people who have experienced:

  • Difficulty making or keeping friends
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Social anxiety
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Complex trauma (CPTSD)
  • Fear of conflict
  • Abusive relationships
  • General uncertainty about the “right” way to behave in social situations

How can these DBT phrases help social situations feel easier?

These 3 mnemonic devices, or phrases that help us remember ideas, can help you shut down unhelpful thinking styles and keep your priorities straight in the moment. They can also help remind you what makes for effective communication, how to express yourself confidently, and how to respect others’ boundaries without fear.

You’ll want to familiarize yourself with these mnemonic tools by thinking about them outside of situations where you’ll need to use them–like when you’re alone. However, they can be used in the moment, while socializing, on the fly.

Until you remember them easily, try reminding yourself of these three phrases in the morning before work or school. As you repeat them to yourself, in minutes per day, you’ll start to use these tools more automatically. They will eventually become second-nature. 

That means no more fretting about whether you’re over-asserting yourself or behaving in an off-putting way.

Need motivation? Here’s what others have to say…

“Muahahahah! I love my #DBT #superpowers! DEAR MAN you are my best friend.” – @Abi_redhead

“As someone who was a combative young person, with disabilities that weren’t visible, I can say that folks can turn that ego driven energy into something far more effective without sacrificing anything. DBT DEAR MAN GIVE FAST. If you know, you know!” – @Featherbrained

“Been using these #DBT #FAST skills left and right and up and down lately. :)” – @HealingFromBPD

“Another great way of putting mentalizing and validation into practice is the DBT GIVE skill.” – @Borderlineland 

DEAR MAN: “The most effective way to make a request”

  • Describe the facts at hand
  • Express your point of view
  • Assert what you’d like
  • Reinforce the connection between you and the other person
  • Mindfully stay in the moment and avoid bringing the past into this situation
  • Appear confident
  • Negotiate with the other person to reach an agreement

GIVE: Healthy conversation-making checklist

  • Gentle: am I expressing myself gently?
  • Interested: am I expressing interest in what the other person’s saying?
  • Validate: am I validating what the other person’s saying, where appropriate?
  • Easy manner: am I maintaining an easy manner, not getting worked up or hostile?

FAST: Boundaries and self respect in conversations

  • Fair: am I being fair to both myself and my partner in conversation?
  • Apologies / no apologies: apologize if you’ve wronged the other person, but don’t apologize for setting boundaries or making a request
  • Stick to your values: try to find a solution that doesn’t violate your values
  • Truthful: be truthful and don’t give up on the conversation

Helpful terms and resources

DBT: an acronym that stands for “dialectical behavior therapy.” “Dialectical” refers to logically assessing both sides of an idea or situation–DBT techniques are about finding balance in our behavior. It can help us avoid the extremes of always blaming ourselves or always taking our own side.

Podcast on GIVE and DEAR MAN

DEAR MAN, GIVE, and FAST Reference Sheet