Interpersonal Effectiveness: Mental Health Meets Social Health

Last week, we talked about ways to implement mindfulness into your daily routines. While mindfulness is perhaps the most well-known module of DBT, it takes more than just “being present” to master this therapy.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps us to improve ourselves internally so that we can begin tackle the external. Among these external factors are our relationships with others: parents, teachers, co-workers, friends, etc.

Social interactions can be stressful and unpleasant, especially for those struggling with anxiety or other mental/behavioral health issues. Interpersonal effectiveness addresses this, seeking to make us better communicators and peers.

How does it work?

Social interactions are an unavoidable part of life. We rely on others in order to achieve certain needs. These needs can range from emotional support to approval or permission. And, whether we recognize it or not, our mental health plays a huge role in how we interact with others.

Our thought processes and feelings often affect the way that we communicate with others. If we are feeling stressed, we might be more irritable. Or, if we’re sad, we might be more closed off and less open to conversations. Our perspectives and desires may prevent us from being empathetic or understanding other points of view. Or maybe, depression or self-doubt prevents us from talking to others at all.

While mindfulness can be a great tool in regulating emotions that interfere with communication, interpersonal effectiveness goes a step further.

Maintaining Relationships & Assessing their Importance

In everything that we do in life, we seek to achieve a positive outcome. We eat for energy (or for taste); we go to school to improve our futures; and we do what our parents want because we value our relationship with them.

Unfortunately, our mental state can cloud this understanding. Even though we value our parents, we aren’t always nice to them or obedient to their wishes. Our brains have something else in mind (no pun intended).

Interpersonal effectiveness is like a post-it note reminder in such situations. It forces us to consider…

  1. How important is this relationship to me?
  2. How do I want this person to feel about me?
  3. How do I maintain this relationship?

In an essay by accomplished Major League Baseball player Chipper Jones, he recalls the pressure to use performance-enhancing drugs during his career. He writes to his younger self:

“[Y]ou’re going to be open to using steroids in 1996. Like, really open to it. And you should be forever grateful that your wife was around to discuss it with you…[S]he’s going to ask you this: ‘Would you be able to look your parents in the eye if you earned a bunch of accolades and honors while taking steroids? Would you be O.K. with that?'”

He concludes, “It’s going to be all you’ll need to hear. You’ll never touch the stuff.”

The truth is that, for many of us, our relationship with our parents is important to us.

It’s so important, in fact, that when we stop to consider its importance, we might treat them differently. Whether this consideration helps us to make better life choices like Chipper, or merely refrain from shouting at them when we don’t get our way, the outcome is going to be positive.

This, however, is only the beginning. Interpersonal effectiveness also helps us with being direct and assertive in our communication and teaches us how to prioritize our needs and have them met.

Interpersonal Effectiveness at Blueprint Mental Health

Blueprint Mental Health specializes in the use of DBT for teens. We work with individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other mental health issues to help them improve their lives and relationships.

This summer, Blueprint Mental Health will be offering two DBT training sessions for parents and for teens. Through real world scenarios and fun pop culture references, we’ll discuss the five modules of DBT, including interpersonal effectiveness.

For more information about Blueprint Mental Health and its DBT training sessions, call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail

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