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For today’s weekly wellness, I want to talk about how to skillfully say no, which ties into advice I gave you previously (exercise your no!) and gives me an opportunity to write about one of my all-time favorite skills – DEAR MAN!  This is a skill that I’ve practiced so much at this point, that I now “DEAR MAN” people without even realizing I’m doing it.  This is a great skill for thinking through how to say no as well as asking for things that you want from others.  As with other skills I’ve shared, this is not meant to be considered as the only or right way of asking for things or saying no in all situations, but rather, this is one tool that you can use when you decide that it serves your goals or wellbeing.

Okay, here’s how it works!  DEAR MAN is an acronym.  The “DEAR” part is what you say, and the “MAN” part is how you say it.  Here are the steps:

D: Describe the situation nonjudgmentally, sticking only to the facts. 
E:  Express your emotions about the situation – how did it make you feel?
A:  Assert yourself.  Say no clearly or ask for what you want directly.
R:  Reinforce the person. Give them a reason why they should accept your no or give you what you want.
M: Be mindful.  Don’t get distracted from your objective by attacks or defensiveness.
A:  Appear confident (within what’s appropriate to your culture and situation).
N:  Negotiate.  Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.

So, what does this actually sound like in practice?  Let’s say that someone is asking for some help on a project at the last minute and although I’d like to be able to help, I’m really overextended already so I want to say no.  Here’s what I would say:

(D) You’ve asked me to step in and help you complete a project with only 3 days notice.  (E) I feel frustrated, and also a little guilty, (A) because I’d really like to help you but I just don’t have time to do it.  (R) I really value our relationship and I hope you understand why I can’t help this time.

As you can see from this example, DEAR MAN offers an easy way to figure out how to communicate your needs to others.  Because this is a written example, it’s harder to demonstrate the MAN piece, but you’ll notice that I didn’t apologize for saying no and I stated my response confidently (these are both elements of appearing confident).  If the person pushed back, I might negotiate by offering some other type of support, such as reviewing their final project or helping them practice for the presentation – but I wouldn’t do this unless I wanted to and decided it was a reasonable thing to offer.  

Dr. Carla