Taking care of our relationships is integral to our emotional wellbeing. But, we also want to care for ourselves in our relationships. By setting our boundaries and practicing self-respect, we improve our relationships and ourselves! FAST is an interpersonal effectiveness skill in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) that helps us do that.
Be fair to yourself by honoring your values and your boundaries. More importantly, don’t put others’ needs before your own. We have to be fair to ourselves and prioritize ourselves in order to be supportive of others.
Apologize when necessary, but don’t apologize when one is unwarranted. We apologize so often when one is not needed. Don’t apologize for your presence, for your opinions, or your thoughts. Rather than apologize when you don’t need to, express gratitude to the other person. (For example, instead of saying “I’m sorry for being late,” say, “Thank you for waiting for me!”).
S: Stick to your values
First, identify your values. Once you have identified what your primary values are, you can stick to them. Don’t abandon your values when in relationship with others. Honor your values – these are the things you feel shape your life! Values are important, and by honoring our values, we stay true to ourselves while in relationships with others.
Tell the truth! There is a saying therapists have: if a client is lying in session, they are lying to themselves. And the same might be true in our other relationships. Being honest in your relationships and with yourself helps honor others. It fosters relationships and builds safety in relationships.
How does the FAST skill work for you?
There are times in our lives when we have to ask for something, say no, or assert ourselves. And that can feel hard! Maybe sometimes we are interacting with a challenging person in our lives. Or maybe we struggle with regulating our own emotions when we have to have these difficult conversations.
DEARMAN is a DBT skill that helps us through these conversations. It is an interpersonal effectiveness skill that gives us a script for how to talk to others while respecting both our boundaries, and the person to whom we are speaking.
First, start out by describing the facts of the problem. And only the facts!
We scheduled a meeting for today, and you canceled our meeting 20 minutes before it started.
Simple, short, and only the facts.
Second, share your feelings about the situation.
I felt frustrated because I rearranged my entire day to meet with you.
I felt upset because I was looking forward to meeting with you.
I felt worried because I thought you had an emergency.
A: Ask, assert, or say no.
Next time, I need more notice before you cancel so I can rearrange my day.
In the future, can you let me know the day before if you need to reschedule?
Sometimes, this is simply saying thank you. Other times, it’s reinforcing the other person’s good behavior by modeling the behavior you want to see.
Thank you for being considerate of my time.
Thank you, and I will also give you the same courtesy.
Be present and focused as you speak. Don’t multitask. Focus your energy on being present to the conversation.
A: Appear Confident
This one can be hard! Remember that asserting ourselves can be intimidating. You are not alone in that feeing. Use the skills you have to appear confident in these conversations.
These conversations cannot be one-sided. If we ask something of others, we want to listen to their response as well. Sometimes, we have to negotiate with others. That’s part of being in relationship with others!
How to Maintain Healthy Relationships
Once we have established healthy relationships, it takes effort to keep them going. Relationships are not a “one-and-done” deal. Rather, relationships are like a garden: they require ongoing care, watering, fertilizing, weeding, and pruning.
DBT’s GIVE skill is a helpful tool in knowing exactly how to tend to our healthy relationships.
Approach others with a gentle manner. Avoid attacks and judgmental statements. When we approach one another in a manner of love and safety, we can make the most generous assumptions about one another before we even begin our conversation.
Act interested in what the other person is saying, without interrupting. This can be hard sometimes! If your spouse loves race cars, and you couldn’t even spot a race car on the street, it might be challenging to act interested in that topic. But, acting interested can involve asking questions to learn more, or even just taking time to learn about that topic as they speak.
Validate the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and wishes. Acknowledging and validating this allows one to feel heard, which increases our trust in one another.
E: Easy Manner
Have an easy manner. This allows you to connect more so that when something challenging arises when an easy manner might not be completely appropriate, we have built that security and trust with that person so we know we can sit in the challenge together. An easy manner can involve being lighthearted, smiling, going with the flow, or bringing a sense of humor into the relationship.
Like all skills, integrating these takes practice and awareness. Start by practicing with someone with whom you are close and intimate. If we can practice these skills with one person, we are able to generalize them to others in our lives as well.