Stay at home orders may mean you find yourself spending more time with family members than is routine. This can be an opportunity to build closeness and an opportunity to use your interpersonal skills!

In DBT, there are three basic goals in interpersonal interactions. One goal is getting an objective met (called “Objectives Effectiveness”), one is maintaining a relationship (“Relationship Effectiveness”) and the third is maintaining your self-respect (“Self-Respect Effectiveness”). You must decide which goal is your priority.

If you want your car repaired, then your focus on your objective effectiveness. You’re not really interested in maintaining a relationship with the mechanic, and your self- respect is not the top priority. You have an objective–you want your car fixed!

If you have a good friend who hasn’t returned the lawn mower he borrowed, your priority would likely be to maintain the relationship, though you’d also like your lawn mower back. That would be relationship effectiveness as the top priority and objective effectiveness would be secondary. 

Then there is self-respect effectiveness. Maintaining self-respect includes standing up for what you believe in. This objective is the priority when the simple act of standing up and speaking is most important. Self-respect effectiveness is the priority when getting what you want and maintaining relationships are not as important as asserting yourself, such as expressing an opinion or standing up for what you believe in. 

It’s great when you can maintain self-respect, get your objective met, and maintain your relationship all at the same time! But that is not the case in many situations. You can’t always get what you want and maintain relationships. You can’t always maintain relationships and keep your self-respect. Being aware of the priority that you are choosing, and making it wisely, is important for the way you feel about yourself. 

For example, maybe you’ve been invited to a cyber get-together. Someone you know who has been a part of the same group wasn’t invited because he has different political beliefs than the rest of the group. You decide that leaving the friend out because of his political opinion is against your values. You want to go to the online gathering and standing up means you may be uninvited and even lose friends. You may also not be effective in changing others minds or in having your friend be included (objective effectiveness). You decide your self-respect is most important, so you stand up and speak your opinion. You may also decide not to attend the party in support of the friend who was left out.

Self-respect effectiveness is about maintaining your morals, beliefs and values. It means acting in ways that you feel give you a sense of competency and mastery.  Dr. Linehan says the key question to ask yourself is, “How do I want to feel about myself after the interaction is over (whether or not I get the results or changes I want)?”

Self-respect cannot always be the priority. Sometimes it isn’t effective to speak up, such as when speaking up would cost you long term important goals or endanger your safety. In some situations, speaking up about your opinion could risk a job that you need. In some situations, it could be dangerous to speak up and not effective to speak up. 

Being mindful of your objectives in your interactions with others can help you make decisions that are effective. When you have interactions with others, keep in mind what your primary objective is. 

Live a skill-full life. By Karyn Halll, Ph.D., May 14, 2020

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