Direct Commucation and FAST

Direct Communication refers to the overt expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, wants, needs or other internal processes, without the presence of any pretense or subliminal messages embedded within that expression. Direct Communication is not a skill that was created specifically for DBT, but it is a skill nonetheless and one which everyone can benefit from both individually and collectively. 

The acronym FAST is a skill which was designed specifically for DBT. It is often used in conjunction with the GIVE and/or DEARMAN skills (explained here). FAST comes under the Interpersonal Effectiveness module and is used specifically with the aim of maintaining self-respect whilst maneuvering interpersonal interactions

The acronym FAST stands for:

  • (be) Fair
  • (no) Apologies
  • Stick to Values
  • (be) Truthful

I will share the current example which motivated me to write this post:

I arrived at my Dad’s house this afternoon after therapy feeling exhausted and dissociated, with a desire to have a much-needed nap. I dragged myself up the stairs and walked into my bedroom only to find it rearranged and prepared for relatives who are coming to stay on Monday. I had initially agreed that the guests could use my room from Monday (NOT today), and so was planning on staying at my Dad’s house over this weekend, especially as my Mum is away. However, my stepmum informed (after I angrily shouted down the stairs to her asking “So can I use my bed or what?”) that my room needed to be kept in the state the cleaner had left it, ready for the guests (on MONDAY). And that I therefore could not sleep on my bed. She suggested I nap in one of my sisters’ beds but this was beside the point. I knew I could have slept in my own bed if I rewashed and made the bed by Monday but this was beside the point too, especially as I was feeling depressed and zombified (and hence unable to even contemplate cleaning!).

Exacerbated by my emotional vulnerability and general recent low mood, I reacted (mostly internally) by becoming extremely dysregulated. The primary emotion I experienced was sadness but the secondary emotion of anger swamped that entirely. I was furious because all l wanted was to SLEEP, and sleep in my own bed, in a safe space, after a low few hours; and I felt as though that opportunity – and my “rights” and needs – had been “taken away from me”. I felt like I hadn’t been thought about and that my needs had not been considered given the context. It also brought up feelings of frustration and sadness as I started thinking about the fact I do not have (and have not had for years) one consistent base I can call “home”.

I was too tired to go downstairs and argue with my stepmum so lay on my rug and started crying to myself instead. After a while of engaging in my misery and feeling righteous in that experience (!), I ended up falling asleep for an hour or so. When I woke up, my emotions – though still lingering – had dissipated to a much more manageable level. I had moved out of Emotion Mind into a much more Wise-Minded state. Considering my anger was justified and the now Wise(r) stance I was able to hold, I was now ready to effectively problem-solve.

This was when the Direct Communication and FAST skills came in –

I went downstairs and told my stepmum that I needed to speak to her. We went outside and I told her I was feeling upset and frustrated that I couldn’t sleep in my bed and that she hadn’t communicated the plans to me in advance. She apologised but was a little dismissive and changed the subject. 

So, continuing to be truthful and stick to my values, I told her that I didn’t feel she was hearing how upset the whole situation was making me. She looked surprised and said we should sit down. She also stopped what she was doing (BBQing) and gave me her full attention. I started welling up and wanted to apologise for being so “silly” and “sensitive”, but I kept reminding myself of my values and my truth and that I did not have to be sorry for expressing my (totally appropriate) needs. 

It was only when I expressed the feeling of not having a “home”, and talking about the fact I struggle with living between my parents’ houses, that she became aware of what was going on for me. I stayed fair and was careful not to accuse her or apply blame in any way. I merely stated my truth; that her “disallowing” me to access my bedroom had resulted in me feeling that I am not truly at home here, nor made to feel that I am.

At this point I started getting upset and a switch seemed to flick in her head. She told me she understood and said she could imagine how difficult that must be for me, that herself and my dad should have been better at communicating with me, and that she was sorry for the misunderstanding. She told me that I have every right to my bedroom no matter what and that she will do anything to make me feel more at home here. She validated my feelings and told me it was important to her that I feel comfortable here. 

We ended up resolving the situation by changing the plan slightly: I will continue to have access to my room and the guests will share a spare room instead of having their own rooms (with one of those rooms initially being mine). She even seemed impressed at my Direct Communication and validated all the hard work I have done around stating my needs and communicating effectively with them. I really appreciated it, feeling both empowered, closer to her and relieved within my core.

I ended up not just maintaining but also increasing the respect I have for myself – by listening to my emotions and solving the problem in this Wise-Minded and skilful way. It was a story of skill-use with a happy ending indeed and certainly one to add to my memory bank!

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