Practicing interpersonal effectiveness

Marie Amos shows how giving a little can gain a lot for everyone involved.

  • Dec. 5, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Developing healthy habits that contribute to emotional well-being is a life-long process that takes regular maintenance. This includes the way we interact with others – an easily overlooked area of skill-development. Our last article on Dialectical Behaviour Therapy focuses on the acronym GIVE. This is a brief guide to becoming more effective when working with others. Practicing GIVE makes it likely that our, and others’ needs will be met, particularly during a discussion or negotiation. In order to get what you want, you need to GIVE. Below is the recipe for a win-win interaction.

G is for Gentle

Gentleness looks  kind, calm and understanding. Gentleness is not attacking with words or adopting physically intimidating postures or gestures. It isn’t looking to bring the other person to submission, but calmly asking for what you want with a willingness to hear the other person’s side.

I is for Interested

Be interested in the other person. Listen and ask questions while you try to see the other person’s point of view. This is a great opportunity to practice patience and a genuine curiosity about the other person’s perspective. Listening and hearing their point of view instead of impatiently waiting to say something can bring to light common ground. Sometimes we defend our position so intently that we don’t notice pre-existing areas of agreement.

V is for Validate

Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and let them know you can understand how they may be feeling or what they may be hoping to achieve in a particular situation. Acknowledging what it may be like for another person is a powerful way to help them feel understood, and is an important step in the process of working towards a compromise.

E is for Easy Manner

There is a Japanese proverb, “It is better to bend than to break.”

This always reminds me of a tree in a windstorm – the branches that stay on the tree are the ones that swayed. The branches on the ground are those that refused to bend.

An easy manner is one that makes jokes and smiles and might use a soft-sell approach. Both parties are often more willing to make adjustments when the mood is lighter – when one person digs in their heels and sternly insists on a point, that can often inspire the same response in the other person.

As with any new skill, practice precedes improvement . In a discussion, particularly when one person feels strongly about the topic, it can be tempting to try and steam roll the other person. This can be done by closing our hearts and minds to the other person’s needs and position. By forcing your will onto another person, you may get what you want in the short-term, but it doesn’t make for a long-term, mutually fulfilling relationship.


Marie Amos, MA, is a Clinician with Chilliwack Child and Youth Mental Health of MCFD.

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