How Interpersonal Effectiveness Improves Your Relationships

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Stephanie Fish, MS, LMFT, DBT Team Lead.   Communication (or interpersonal) skills are some of the most important skills you can learn. We interact with many people throughout the day, and effective communication makes getting along with others easier and can enhance your quality of life. While it’s crucial for everyone to improve their communication skills, it is especially important for those with mental health disorders, where effectively interacting with others can be more challenging.   Interpersonal effectiveness is one of the four modules taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that is offered at Nystrom & Associates. The other three modules include mindfulness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. DBT has been shown to effectively treat many mental health conditions including substance use disorder, PTSD, and depression. In this article, we are going to focus on the importance of interpersonal effectiveness.   Related: PTSD & EMDR Therapy  

What is Interpersonal Effectiveness? 

Relationships are tricky. And constructive communication plays a pivotal role in their success – whether it’s with family, friends, or a partner. Stephanie FishDBT Team Lead at Nystrom & Associates, explains how interpersonal effectiveness works to improve our relationships.   
Interpersonal effectiveness means you're asking for what you want or say no to someone while keeping relationships and your self-respect. You can have an interaction and leave it feeling good about yourself no matter the outcome. We may not always be able to get what we want or need but we can still feel proud of how we communicated that need.  
Essentially, interpersonal effectiveness means that you can convey your needs and maintain your integrity through the interaction. The most important parts are that: 
  1. You are asking for what you want/need
  2. You can say no to requests when appropriate
Related: Interpersonal Effectiveness Specialty Area 

Why Interpersonal Effectiveness Matters 

Considering an entire module is dedicated to interpersonal effectiveness in DBT, it's helpful to know how exactly it affects our relationships. Of course, we all know that communication is important. However, the way in which we communicate with others impacts both the quality of our relationships and the outcomes of our interactions. In turn, this affects our self-esteem, confidence, well-being, and even our sense of purpose.   Related: How to Build Your Self-Esteem 

Skills to Implement into Your Conversations 

In order to put interpersonal effectiveness skills into practice, we need to determine our goal for the interaction and pinpoint how we can achieve the desired outcome. Stephanie Fish explains further:  
One of the first steps to interpersonal effectiveness is to know what you want or need from the interaction. Do you need to say no to a friend but don't want to ruin the friendship? Do you want to ask for what you need without losing your self-respect? It's essential to take time to think about what is important to you in regards to that communication or interaction with someone. And it's helpful to have a clear understanding of what you want or need so you can convey that to that person or group of people. This could be done by taking a minute or so to reflect on this or for those tougher conversations, you may need to do some preparation ahead of time or even write up a script that you can rehearse to increase confidence and help you remain calm and collected.  
The good thing is that no matter where you’re at with your communication skills, they can be learned and improved. Before your next interaction with someone, try out the tips above and see how it plays out.  

A Word From Nystrom & Associates  

If your daily interactions are negatively impacting your mood and wellbeing, it’s important to find the right support. Interpersonal effectiveness skills can be learned alongside a qualified mental health professional. If you’d like to request an appointment, please contact our coordinators today  Related: 5 Quick Ways to Improve Your Mood 

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