4D Objective Effectiveness

This page tells you more about the DBT skills for ‘objective effectiveness’.

These are the skills you would use when getting what you want or need (achieving your goal) is your highest priority in the situation (over keeping the relationship or keeping your self-respect).

These skills can be really useful in achieving your goal, by helping you to:

  • stand up for your rights, so that it is more likely you will be taken seriously
  • ask someone to do something, in a way that makes sure they do it
  • say ‘no’ to things that you don’t want, in a way that is understood
  • keep calm in resolving a difficult situation
  • have your views listened to and taken seriously

Sometimes, no matter how skilled we are, a situation or relationship can be almost impossible to work with.  It’s important to remember that not getting the outcome you wanted doesn’t mean you’ve not been skilful.  In such a situation, it can be really helpful to use ‘distress tolerance’ skills to help you accept that this has not ended as you wished and get through the moment.  But it’s important not to give up on being interpersonally effective.  With practice, it will help you to achieve your goal, or at least get closer to it.

Remember, emotion regulation skills can also be really useful in helping you get through a difficult moment; so that you feel able to act using your skills, rather than acting on your emotions.

So, how does it work?

Firstly, to help you be more effective in achieving your objective, you need to think about:

 what you want from the situation – what is your goal?

 what you need to do to achieve this?

With this in mind, you can use your DBT skills.

How can I remember what to do?

DBT uses acronyms to help you remember the skills that are linked to each type of effectiveness. For ‘objective effectiveness’, the acronym is DEAR MAN, and the skills are, to:


Describe: Describe the situation exactly as it is; without judgement.


Express: Let the other person know your views and how the situation makes you feel.


Assert: Make known your wishes; state clearly what you want or don’t want.


Reinforce: Let them know the benefits to the outcome you are aiming for; and let them know what they will get out of it.


Mindful: Be mindful and present in the moment; focus on your current goal, without becoming distracted.  A clear, calm, mindful request is more likely to be effective.


Appear confident: Speak clearly, use a confident posture and tone, and keep eye contact.


Negotiate: Be willing to negotiate alternative solutions.  Be prepared to give in order to get.  Turn the tables – turn the problem over to the other person and ask them for their alternative solutions: ‘What do you think we should do about this’?  ‘How do you think we can make this work’?

My 4D Toolkit Activity

It is ok to ask for the things we want or need, just as it is ok to say “no” and refuse the things we don’t want.  Despite this, we can often find it hard; allowing a whole host of emotions, ranging from vulnerability to anger, to get in the way.

To help you practice and prepare, why not download our ‘Yes/No’ flowchart. This easy to use tool helps you decide just how strongly you need to make your point; whether you should stand firm and not give in, or whether it is actually better for you to let go and move on.

Yes No Flow download button

Related Pages: Interpersonal effectiveness,  Relationship effectiveness,  Self-respect effectiveness,

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