The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

How to Improve your Interpersonal Effectiveness

on December 4, 2017

The full scope of Interpersonal Effectiveness focuses on improving communication, learning to set healthy boundaries, learning to validate self and others, gaining confidence in asking for what you want,  enrolling others to help you in your dreams and goals, and letting go of toxic relationships.

Below is a sample of  one of my lesson plans for  Interpersonal Effectiveness.  (This is one segment from 14 classes on this topic.)

Preventing Compassion Fatigue

It can very often be difficult to say no to people who make demands of us, and if we say no, we can get caught up in self-critical thoughts leading us to feel guilty. To avoid feeling guilty, we just keep on saying “yes” to every request.

Someone asks us to do something: 

Say No diagram

We can learn ways of saying “No” that don’t lead us to think self-critically or feel guilty. For example:

  • I’m sorry but I really can’t take on anything else at the moment.
  • I’m quite busy right now. Perhaps another time.
  • I’d like to help you out, but I just don’t feel up to it at the moment.
  • Thank you for asking me. You’re a nice person, but I don’t want to go out with you.
  • I don’t need a new roof (double glazing, vacuum cleaner etc). I’m happy with what I have thank you.


  • If the person seems to have trouble accepting your “No,” then just keep repeating yourself, over and over if necessary. Be a BROKEN RECORD! Practice what one of my students calls Polite Perseverance…You might have to add the word “No” to the beginning of those statements, perhaps with some emphasis on that word. For example:
  • No. I’m sorry but I really can’t at the moment.


Be wary of those self-critical thoughts afterwards. Practice challenging and/or dismissing them, by telling yourself:

  • I explained to them why I couldn’t do it.
  • It’s not my responsibility.
  • It would only end up upsetting me if I agreed to it – this is best for me. If I feel less tired and not resentful, then I might be a better position to help them out next time.

They’re just thoughts – I don’t need to pay them any attention (then put your focus of attention on something else).

The following dialectic affirmations about control and esteem can be helpful for finding that balance.

  • I cannot control some things but I am not helpless.
  • I cannot control other people but I am not helpless.
  • I am not responsible for those things I cannot control.
  • I accept those things in myself that I cannot change.
  • I can make positive choices for myself.
  • My strengths and abilities deserve my appreciation. Appreciate those abilities you have.

Create your own affirmations by completing the following sentences:

I am not powerless, I can ___________________________________________________

I have the right to refuse ___________________________________________________

I am not helpless, I can _____________________________________________________

I deserve to _________________________________________________________________

Remember, a wise person once said “Repetition is the mother of skill…” so aim to  repeat these phrases at least twice a day, with focused energy, enthusiasm and passion!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan


The DBT Program in my office covers these modules:

  1. DBT Core Mindfulness [focusing skills]
  2. Distress Tolerance [crisis survival skills]
  3. Emotion Regulation [de‐escalation skills]
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness [‘people skills’]

During class, we explore the act of saying “No” and turn these into powerful “Moves” to help you build new neural networks in your brain. We combine neurology, physiology and cognitive restructuring to do this, and sometimes add music and dancing to ramp up our energy. This  helps you develop a fresh new response more easily and will become your “new normal”  response to people’s inappropriate or untimely requests.

** For more information, please visit 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2020. All rights reserved.

3 responses to “How to Improve your Interpersonal Effectiveness

  1. theOwl30 says:

    I am glad to see more people mentioning, discussing and posting about Boundaries.
    However, I feel that besides learning to say no without guilt, there is another part yo Boundaries that often gets overlooked. It”s about not allowing other people to control you it to do aggravating things. Immediately, people will say *but you can’t tell it hers what to do.”
    Think again. O yes we can. Where? How?
    1. IN your own house
    2. ON your own property
    3. IN your own Car
    If you can’t have any rights in those places, where can you?

    You DON”T have to allow others to Smoke in your house. You CAN tell them *what *not* to do. In your own house.

    You CAN tell them they will keep their Dog off of your property and not poop on your lawn.

    You DO have the right to play your music or favorite CD it radio station that you like when they are a passenger in your car even if they don’t like it. No one is forcing them to ride with you. And if they try yo control you, perhaps they are the “Narcissist” not you. Furthermore,

    If they come over to your place to visit, they fo NOT gave the right to tell you to change the TV channel, it to shut the music off on your living room stereo, even though it is playing soft enough to have a conversation.

    “Everybody and his Dog” gets slammed with bring a Narcissist, or “Selfish” these days whenever they assert themselves. I say we need to respect other people’s “Turf” —and they to respect ours.

    There is one more thing. If they try to manipulate or “establish dominance” on *your* turf by saying: “but I would change the radio station for you in my car” or that they would turn theur music off in their house”…..that is their. Personal. Choice. and you should not be obligated to automatically reciprocate.
    We are all in charge in our house, on our property, in our own car. It is not a matter if doing anything yo sggravste them. Rather, it is a matter of doing what you would normally do anyway and why should you enjoy yourself, or *Life” any Less, just because someone else is here?

    So, where Boundaries happen, matters. We are not rude, uncaring or cold got doing things our own way in our own house. Who’s in charge at their house, anyway? I wish all this were discussed by more people, more often. 😊


    • Thanks for sharing these observations – yes, learning to say “YES” when you mean yes and “NO” when you mean no, and letting the chips fall where they may, is a huge mood booster. It’s a simple concept, but not easy to practice! Fun fact: these skills are teachable! Onward and Upward, LW


  2. theOwl30 says:

    Oops, sensitive tablet with a spelling auto-correct that is often wrong ( and sometimes it’s me) sorry for typos.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: