The DBT skills DEARMAN and FAST is used when you are in a confrontational situation where you need to maintain the respect for yourself whilst still being assertive and putting your point across.
DEAR MAN is an acronym for Describe, Express, Assert, Re-inforce, (stay) Mindful, Appear confident, Negotiate
FAST is an acronym for be Fair, no Apologies, Stick to values & be Truthful
The situation I found myself in today was an awkward one. As part of my job, I drive round the city and I inspect properties to make sure the tenants have not damaged them/are looking after them. One of the most common problems I find, probably due to the UK weather, is that a property has mould. The normal reason why this happens is poor ventilation, the tenants are not opening the windows and drying their clothes on the radiators.
I went into a property today which has previously had an issue with damp, which is different, but this issue has been sorted, and the landlord had spent a lot money doing so. As I walked round, I noted several areas where mould was present, but I also noted that every single radiator had several items of clothing/linen/towels drying on it.
When I got the end of the inspection, I was dreading it. I much prefer inspections where the tenant isn’t in, and if there ARE any problems I can leave a note, rather than having to be assertive and tell them to their face that there are problems that they need to sort out.
I took a moment to get myself together and observed (from the core mindfulness module) that I was not feeling the familiar dread and butterflies in my stomach about having a potentially confrontational situation with a tenant. I formulated what I was going to say in my head: That I had noted several areas of mould in the property, and I have observed clothing over the radiators, and I believe that this will be a contributory factor. I needed to use the skills DEAR MAN and FAST.
So this is how the conversation panned out:
Describing – I described to him my findings, that there were several areas of mould around the flat, and I had noted clothing items/towels on every single radiator around the flat.
Expressing – I explained that I believed a large cause of the mould was lifestyle (drying clothes on radiators) rather than a problem with the flat.
Asserting – When I told him my findings, he immediately became defensive and came up with lots of excuses as to why it was not his fault. He told me he only dried the clothes for 30 minutes per day and it just so happened that that was the time I arrived for the inspection. I repeated my comments and refused to back step on what I had said. I requested that he stopped drying clothes on the radiators with immediate effect and cleaned the current mould with a mould spray to prevent the problem from getting any worse.
Re-inforce and (stay) Mindful– When he became aggressive, I stayed calm, and repeated my request in a calm and non-confrontational manner
Appear Confident – I tried to come across in a confident manner by maintaining eye contact and being aware of my body posture
Negotiate – I understand how difficult it can be to dry clothes in a flat when you have no outside space, so told him I would discuss with the landlord the possibility of him providing a condenser dryer for the flat, which would dry their clothes. I also offered a damp survey to be carried out which would categorically tell each party the source of the mould/damp.
I was BEING FAIR – I was not making him take 100% of the blame, there are lots of different factors that could have influenced the situation but drying clothes on the radiators was a major one and I needed to tell him that.
I was NOT APOLOGISING – He told me that the flat was damp, and it wasn’t mould. Previously, where I may have immediately doubted myself and apologised for saying anything, I didn’t. I didn’t get defensive/aggressive either. I remained assertive and repeated my first statement using the ‘broken record’ technique.
I STUCK TO MY VALUES – I was honest, I carried out my job thoroughly and effectively (I hope) and tried to negotiate to get the best result for landlord and tenant.
I was TRUTHFUL – In the past I have been guilty of ignoring a problem in a flat so I can avoid the confrontational situation. This only makes things worse and I am proud I held my head high and entered into this interaction with a plan in place – and it worked too.