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Communicating our needs in relationships

Relationships can be fun and freeing! However, we often hear that maintaining good relationships, be it platonic, familial, or romantic, takes consistent effort, as well as good communication on both ends. How, then, can we communicate our needs effectively in a way that enhances relationships?

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How can communication result in greater relationship satisfaction?

Communication forms an integral foundation for a good relationship, and is central to the long term sustainability and satisfaction of such bonds, especially when conflicts are addressed constructively and personal achievements are shared (De Netto et al., 2021). Through self-disclosure, coupled with empathy and perspective-taking, people can better empathise and relate to each other, yielding more positive outcomes for relationship satisfaction (Meeks et al., 1998).

Another important aspect of communication is the ability to convey our needs meaningfully. The people we form close relationships with may know us well, but it doesn’t mean they can read our mind! People can only know what we need if it is expressed to them.

Consequently, it has been shown that higher levels of perceived availability of partner’s support, for instance through lending a listening ear, can lead to better emotional well-being and by extension, a happier relationship (Reis et al., 2004). However, this can’t happen without us first expressing our needs!

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How can we communicate our needs more effectively?
A powerful tool for interpersonal communication, the DEAR MAN framework (note: this framework works for everyone and not just man) is a technique to assert ourselves and to make requests respectfully (Gaurnotta, 2023). This technique originated from the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), a mode of therapy associated with increased emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness and coping skills, which in turn facilitates improved mental health outcomes (Lenz et al., 2016).

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Each letter in the acronym represents a step of the process (Gaurnotta, 2023):

  • Describe the present situation with the facts

  • Express your feelings and opinions using “I” instead of “you” statements

  • Assert yourself, either by directly requesting for what you want or by saying “no”

  • Reinforce the person ahead of time, for instance, providing a reward for compliance

  • Mindfully focus on your goals and remain calm

  • Appear confident through posture and tone of voice

  • Negotiate in a way that is fair to all involved and be flexible to compromises

This may seem difficult at first, but practice makes perfect! Do try to incorporate this technique where you can and don’t forget to follow us / check out our Total Wellness Initiative Singapore website for more tips :)

References

De Netto, P. M., Quek, K. F., & Golden, K. J. (2021). Communication, the heart of a relationship: Examining capitalization, accommodation, and self-construal on relationship satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 767908. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.767908

Gretchen L, C. (2000). Self-Disclosure Within Intimate Romantic Relationships: Determining Relevant Relational Factors. Eastern Illinois University.

Guarnotta, E. (2023). How to Use DEAR MAN in DBT to Ask for What You Need in Relationships. GoodRx Health. https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/mental-health/dear-man-dbt

Harry T, R., Margret S, C., & John G, H. (2004). Perceived Partner Responsiveness as an Organising Construct in the Study of Intimacy and Closeness. In Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy.

Lenz, A. S., Del Conte, G., Hollenbaugh, K. M., & Callendar, K. (2016). Emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness as mechanisms of change for treatment outcomes within a dbt program for adolescents. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, 7(2), 73–85. https://doi.org/10.1177/2150137816642439

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