THINK is a skill from the adolescent version of DBT. Jill Rathus and Alec Miller wrote the material for that form of DBT, with a forward by Marsha Linehan. This skill is a way to enhance interpersonal peace and reduce conflict and anger. I don’t know about you, but sign me up for all of that!
T- Think about it from the other person’s perspective
H- Have empathy for the other person
I- Interpretations, what other ways could the person be thinking about things
N- Notice ways the other person is showing care or how they might be struggling with their own problems
K- Kindness, use some kindness towards that other person
This skill can be a game-changer in interpersonal relationships. IF you can get outside of yourself long enough to practice this skill, your relationships will change for the better. Unless you are in a destructive relationship (there’s a skill in the handouts for ending destructive relationships, make sure to look that up).
In order to use THINK, you might have to use another skill first. I’ve been in conversations where I needed to take a break to be able to get my emotions in check enough to do this skill. For instance, recently, my wife and I had a moment, or really a time where I misinterpreted something.
She said, “Are we becoming your parents?”
I said, “Are you serious right now?,” in a really biting and offended way.
I’m not going to give the backstory here, I’d be putting things out there that aren’t completely mine to tell, so I’m going to ask that you simply know that there is more to that exchange than is simply in those words. She gave me a look that indicated she was hurt. I would have been hurt too if she had done that to me. So, I noticed that I would probably be doing more damage if I kept going and instead said that I needed a minute and walked out of the room.
That gave me a little space (brief vacation from IMPROVE) to let things calm down and figure out how to be skillful. I also used a little encouragement (the E from IMPROVE). I noticed that I had an assumption about what she meant by the comment she said and I took it really personally. It felt like an attack, but my wife doesn’t attack, so THINK seemed like a great skill to use in that instance.
What might she have been thinking and feeling. Well, I know she had a rough day (she’s a nursing manager and had to be in staffing that day.) I know that she would probably be wanting an evening in which she has to do very little. Being tired also meant that she would not be as skillful as she normally would be. In that situation, I would be trying to get through the evening as well, being that worn out from a day that I’m not used to. She might have simply been thinking that she wanted a stress free evening and said some things a little carelessly. I also thought that maybe she is struggling with how our relationship is right now and maybe it’s about ‘us’ and not about me. Maybe she did not communicate what was really going on in her brain and body very well.
So, after a few minutes (probably 5 if I had to guess) I returned to the living room. I apologized for snapping at her and asked her to say more about what she was thinking. I also told her I had taken her comment very personally and that I did not think she meant it that way. She assured me that she did not intend it that way and we proceeded to have a conversation about what was really bothering her.
So, that’s THINK, a super helpful skill that can bring down the emotional temperature and help move a conversation or conflict forward. Many conflicts are born out of misunderstandings and using skills to try to understand where someone else is coming from can really help to move things along or at least have a conversation end with us feeling good about how we handled the situation.
One final word on the Interpersonal Effectiveness skills. All of these skills are ways to be more skillful in relationships. If the people you are in relationship with are not skillful, the benefit you will see will be more limited. If you, however, balance the skills, you can feel good about how you are showing up in those relationships. Sometimes, we have relationships that are not good for us. Those decisions are best made in Wise Mind, finding a balance between allowing others to make mistakes while also preserving our self respect.