DBT Skills in the Workplace | An Example

I am excited to share with you an experience I had today at work. It was a very practical application of DBT skills.  I hope that by reading it you will be encouraged to continue your journey with hope, as things truly DO GET BETTER with hard work and time!

In the past, including in the workplace, I had a very difficult time controlling my emotions. As you can imagine, this did not go over very well in a professional environment. I'd hopped from one job to the next, self-sabotaging along the way, but I see my former behavior with compassion, as I didn't have the skills to behave any differently. It was all I knew. (According to DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness Handout 3, "Lack of Skill" is a factor that reduces interpersonal effectiveness.)

Oprah says that when you know better, you do better. Well, now I know better.

Image Credit

Today, during a staff meeting at work, with hands shaking and my words a little bit jumbled, I decided to assertively bring up an issue that many of my colleagues had been complaining about, but no one had been willing to bring up (out of fear of retaliation and repercussions from management).

Before I spoke, a tweet I recently saw yesterday came to mind.  It really spoke to me regarding the situation at work. With all of the complaining and gossiping and no action to resolve the problem, these words motivated me forward:

Tweet by @TheDailyLove

I had finally had enough. 

When I got to the meeting, I let the specific person I was addressing know that this wasn't an attack on him and that I like him very much. I brought up my concerns and also offered suggestions in terms of solutions to problem solve.  Other than being a bit visibly shaky (I was nervous!), I remained professional and, most IMPORTANTLY given my walk with BPD and DBT, IN CONTROL OF MY EMOTIONS!

I used the following DBT Skills:
  • Objectiveness Effectiveness: Getting Your Objectives or Goals in a Situation
    • getting another to do something
    • getting you opinion or point of view taken seriously
      • Some of the Guidelines I used to accomplish this were:
        • describe
        • appear confident 
        • assert
        • express
  • Building Mastery and Self Respect:
    • Acting in a way that makes you feel capable and effective
    • Stand up for yourself, your beliefs and opinions; follow your Wise Mind
    • Interact in a way that makes you feel competent and effective, not helpless and overly dependent
(The above skills were sourced from the Interpersonal Effectiveness Handouts 1, 2, and 8 from Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder  by Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy/DBT.)

I feel proud right now, because believe me, this has been a LONG time coming. I asked for feedback from my colleagues after the meeting, and they high-fived me and remarked that they could tell I was nervous but that they perceived me as being very professional and composed. 

My boss spoke with me privately. I was a bit scared when he shut the door. He calmly tried to get me to see things from another perspective, and when he wrapped up, he said, "Debbie, one quality that I admire and appreciate about you is that you are willing to speak up and tell me when things are going on in my company when no one else will. Thank you."

I am STILL shaking, but I know that this incident represents a huge growth in the areas of interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation.  If I could do it - believe me when I tell you - so can you. It just takes time and hard work, both of which are available to you.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


  1. My emotions tend to also get in the way of making very important decisions. Today has been one of those days and from the way things look I have many more important decisions to make in the near future. I am trying so hard to implement the DBT skills, but today I almost broke down crying while in a very important meeting, thank goodness I held it together and began to appear confident with belief in my views and opinions, but boy was that hard. Especially hard when it involves making decisions for loved ones. Right now I am tired and scared, projecting on what the future holds. I need to remain strong and not let the emotions get the best of me. Love your blog:)

    1. Thank you for sharing. Sorry to hear that you got upset during the meeting. I've done that as well. It sounds like you were able to tap into your strength and skills and present yourself professionally and appropriately, which is awesome. Thank you for reading and for leaving such a thoughtful comment. xo



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