Relationship Effectiveness: GIVE

DBT Self Help - Relationship Effectiveness
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy‘s Interpersonal Effectiveness skills are designed to help you get what you need from your relationships while being respectful to yourself and others. Interpersonal relationships can be very challenging when you are also dealing with unstable emotions. It can be easy to damage a relationship in the process. GIVE can help you keep your relationships intact during a discussion or argument. The acronym contains skills that instruct you on how to act in an argument in order to best get your objective met.

GIVE stands for:

  • Gentle
  • Interested
  • Validate
  • Easy Manner

Think of GIVE like the How Skill to DEAR MAN’s What Skill. As in, DEAR MAN is what you do (more or less) and GIVE, and its cousin FAST are how you do it. Using the skills in GIVE will also improve your DEAR MAN.

Part of Interpersonal Effectiveness is attending to your relationships regularly. Don’t let hurts and problems build up, instead address them as they occur. Use your skills to prevent problems before they blow up. End hopeless or toxic relationships. It is not necessary to continually use GIVE on a person who doesn’t deserve it.


It’s important to have a goal in mind before beginning the interpersonal interaction. For Relationship Effectiveness, the general goal is usually to preserve the relationship. Sometimes you may want to get the other person to approve of you more. Perhaps you want them to stop criticizing or rejecting you.

Here are some potential goals to consider:

  1. Act in a way that makes the other person want to give you what you are asking for
  2. Act in a way that makes the other person feel good about you saying no to their request
  3. Balance immediate (short-term) goals with what is good for the long-term relationship

Make sure to balance your relationship goals with your objective and self-respect goals. Don’t sacrifice your self-respect for a relationship that doesn’t deserve it. Don’t say yes just to preserve a relationship. All three sets of skills need to be balanced and coordinated effectively.

Be Gentle

People respond better to gentleness than harshness. Be kind and respectful. Do not attack, make threats, pass judgment, or sneer at them. This includes the obvious behaviors of yelling, hitting and threatening self-harm. But it also includes eye-rolling, walking away, and phrases such as “you should/shouldn’t.” Tolerate someone saying no to you. Give them the time and space to respond to you. Acquiesce if the other person requests delaying the conversation or having it in a private place where they feel safer.

Act Interested

Doesn’t it feel awful when the person you’re trying to talk to isn’t listening to you? When you’re telling a story but you can see their attention is elsewhere? When we’re having an argument with someone we care about, it’s only fair to listen to their point of view. Act interested in what they’re saying, even if it’s challenging for you. That means listening, but it also means facing the person physically, maintaining eye contact and not interrupting them. Be accepting of their wish to postpone the discussion.


Once you’ve listened, show the other person you understand what they said through your words and actions. Put yourself in their shoes, try to figure out what problems they might be having with your request and acknowledge them. If you think they’re being unreasonable, find the ‘grain of truth’ in what they’re saying.

Use phrases like “I see that you are busy…” or “I know you’re having a hard time…” Be nonjudgmental out loud. Validate the other person’s feelings, wants, difficulties, and opinions about the situation. This skill can and ought to be used even when you’re not in a difficult situation. It has the potential to affect the quality of your relationships more than any other skill.

Use an Easy Manner

Smile, use humor, be friendly and easy-going. This will help ease the other person along. No one likes to be bullied, pushed around, or guilt-tripped. Having a good attitude will make the conversation go more smoothly. It can be hard to keep an easy manner when the other person feels hurt by your request but you must remember that their response is valid. Try to accept their response while maintaining a calm and gentle manner.


Try thinking of how you would want to be treated during a discussion. Would you want to be yelled at or treated with soft kindness? What would each of those approaches look like in terms of words and actions? Take your answers and practice them. Have a discussion with a trusted friend or your pet where you use all these tips and tricks.

Practice these skills when you’re not having a discussion just to get used to using them. It will get easier to remember to them, though you may have to take a few deep breaths when you get angry to help remind yourself.

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