Interpersonal Effectiveness: How to get what you want and need without hurting yourself or others!

By Arielle Sheinman, LSW

A chill in the air means only one thing: Holiday season is around the corner. It’s such an exciting time filled with family, food and presents- it can instantly make us feel like kids again. But, as the temperatures plummet and snow falls, we are left with little escape from the inevitable family conflicts that arise due to cabin fever. We find ourselves playing our old familial roles peacekeeper, rebel, enforcer etc. Sound familiar? We fall into the same traps and conflicts and are left wondering, “There must be a better way?!”

Interpersonal effectiveness is defined as our capacity to keep and maintain healthy relationships. Simply put, it’s our ability to ask for what we want and need without hurting others or putting ourselves down in the process. It requires mindful attention, listening, and assertiveness.

So when you find yourself around the fire, feeling fiery, try creating a DEAR script. It eliminates judgment, allows the other person to let down their guard, and might actually help you get what you want and need from the interaction. Remember to appear confident, maintain eye contact and be willing to negotiate a bit.


Describe the situation. Use factual statements and avoid judgments/judgmental language.  Try to define the situation using Who? What? Where? When?


Express your feelings and opinions about the situation clearly. Use the “I feel ____ when” method. Don’t expect the other person to read your mind or know how you feel.


Assert your wishes. 
Ask for what you want. 
Say no clearly. Don’t expect the other person to know what you want them to do if you don’t tell them


Reward or praise people who respond positively to you when you ask for something.

In therapy, we will work together to figure out it is you want from your relationships, how utilize listening and negation skills, and even help you develop your own DEAR or assertiveness script. We will drop the judgment and tackle the holiday time together!