“Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.” – Hermann Hesse
When we experience conflict with others, we must remember that there are two people involved who each have valid needs. Dialectical behavior therapy includes a focus on interpersonal effectiveness, which provides us with tools to navigate our interactions with others. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook (McKay, Wood, & Brantley, 2007) explains how to use the mnemonic device R-A-V-E-N to successfully navigate our negotiations with other people.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: Negotiate with R-A-V-E-N
The next time that you find yourself in an interpersonal situation with the sense that your needs are not being effectively stated, met, or understood, try approaching the interaction using these DBT interpersonal effectiveness skills. Conflict is not necessarily “bad.” It is possible to approach potential conflicts with an attitude of mindfulness, the ability to tolerate distress, emotion regulation, and effective use of interpersonal skills. Consider the idea of negotiation as being respectful of your own and the other person’s needs, wishes, and emotions while working together to find a balanced solution that is in each person’s best interest.
Begin by accepting that conflict is occurring. Return to your breath and calm yourself using deep, slow, and intentional breathing. Consciously focus on releasing any held tension as you exhale. Pause before speaking and choose your words mindfully.
Avoid the aversive
Remember any negative or aversive strategies that you are typically tempted to use during conflict – choose to stay away from these unhealthy ways of interacting. If you typically hit below the belt during arguments or shut down what the other person is saying, admit this honestly to yourself and choose to avoid these behaviors in the present moment.
Choose to actively validate the other person’s needs or concerns, no matter how tempted you might be to get defensive or to attack. Bring your focus towards a fair, mutually agreeable outcome wherein you can both get some of your needs met – this is what it means to compromise.
Examine your values
How is it that you would like to be treated in a relationship? How would you like to see yourself treat others? Reflect on the types of relationships that you admire and aspire to have. How is your current behavior moving you closer to or further from what you value?
Actively keep any anger, resentment, or contempt out of your voice. Other people can pick up on cues from your tone of voice, so even if your words are saying one thing, you may be communicating something very different through your tone. Be mindful of this in the moment.
The first step towards being prepared to effectively negotiate (within a dialectical behavior therapy framework) involves being committed to adhering to the R-A-V-E-N guidelines. This basic tool is intended to prepare yourself to effectively negotiate with others, which can be especially helpful for those with tendencies to feel overwhelmed by emotions or easily distressed. Once you feel confident that you can remember to Relax, Avoid the aversive, Validate, Examine your values, and use a Neutral voice, you are well on the way towards effective negotiation.
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In tomorrow’s post I will directly address some classic compromise solutions that are explored in The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook.
McKay, M., Wood, J.C., & Brantley, J. (2007). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Featured image: Ravens’ Duet by Ron Mead / CC BY 2.0