Use the DBT FAST Skill to Keep Self-Respect During Conflict

September 16, 2019 Hannah O'Grady


Years ago, I was the queen of passivity, but the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) FAST skill helped me overcome it. It used to be that I avoided conflict and difficult conversations at all costs and refused to put my needs and desires first. I would come up with scripts in my head of what to say; however, as soon as an intense conversation would begin, I felt my self-respect fade away ("Show Yourself Respect: How to Communicate with Confidence"). I wished that I could trade in my copious amounts of passivity for self-respect, but something always got in the way. Fortunately, in the past year, I have learned how to maintain self-respect during a conflict by following a few simple steps set out by the DBT FAST skill. 

How to Use the DBT FAST Skill During Interpersonal Conflict

If you have read my articles before, you know that I am enrolled in an intensive DBT training program at Columbia University and loving it. Through being trained in becoming a DBT therapist, I have been able to practice these therapeutic skills on myself. One interpersonal effectiveness skill I particularly like is the FAST skill, which is an acronym that outlines how to maintain self-respect when asking for what you want. 

  • Be (f)air -- Be fair both to the other person and yourself. Be fair to yourself by acknowledging your needs as opposed to hiding them, which requires a degree of assertiveness. Be fair to the other person by avoiding judgment, harsh tone, and other harmful communication tactics. Many people shut down when they feel targeted. 
  • No (a)pologizing -- I should clarify that this does not mean that you should never apologize. Apologizing when you have done something wrong can help rebuild trust and relationships. However, if you have not done anything wrong, do not be sorry. I have a bad habit of apologizing compulsively, and I believe that this is an issue that many women in our society face. Pay attention to how often you apologize each day, and you may be surprised. 
  • (S)tick to your values -- During conflict, it can be tempting to compromise what is important to you in order to please the other person. Make a list of your current values and stick to them. If you are not sure of your current values, it is worth exploring this. In any relationship, it is crucial that you and your partner have your needs and desires met. If your partner does not respect your values, perhaps it is time to reflect on your relationship. 
  • Be (t)ruthful -- Be honest both with yourself and others. I have struggled with being truthful in conflict, and I have minimized my feelings and wants. By not being truthful about what you hope to get out of the conversation, you may never have your needs met. 

Do you think you'll try this DBT FAST skill in your next conflict? Why or why not? Contribute your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
O'Grady, H. (2019, September 16). Use the DBT FAST Skill to Keep Self-Respect During Conflict , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Hannah O'Grady

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Lizanne Corbit
September, 17 2019 at 1:43 pm

This is great! I think it is so important to think about maintaining self-respect in conflict, and how this can have such far-reaching benefits for ourselves and anyone we're communicating with. I love that this acknowledges fairness to both parties. Thank you for sharing!

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