The GIVE Skill

by | Mar 20, 2019


A few years ago I learned an acronym for a social skill from DBT Therapy that I’ve found has improved my interpersonal skills. It’s call the “GIVE Skill.”

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (“DBT”) was developed in the early 1990s to treat individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder but has been found to be effective in treating a host of psychological conditions including depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD and social anxiety. However, the skills taught in DBT are universally beneficial and experts commonly comment that all individuals, regardless of mental pathology, could benefit from DBT. I totally agree – I gained a lot from learning DBT skills with my kids about dealing with stress, emotions as well as interacting effectively with other people.

“Dialectical” means two opposing thoughts can be true at the same time. An individual can be “doing the best that they can” but also can recognize that they can do better. IFOD on Dichotomous vs. Dialectical Thinking

There are four areas of DBT training: (a) Mindfulness, (b) Distress Tolerance, (c) Emotion Regulation, and (d) Interpersonal Effectiveness. My favorite DBT skill which I use all the time is called the GIVE Skill and falls within the Interpersonal Effectiveness category.

The GIVE Skill

When entering an interaction with another individual, especially when you are distracted, focused on something else or in a negative emotional state, stop and focus on the four aspects of GIVE:

“G” – (be) Gentle. This means to adopt a pleasant attitude. Do not be harsh, threatening or judging. Adopt an attitude of openness towards the person with whom you are interacting.

“I” (act) Interested. It would be best to actually be interested in what the other person is saying, but regardless of whether you are actually interested or not, it is important to actively focus on the person and act interested in what they are saying. Focus on staying in the moment with the other person and actively listening.

“V” Validate them. This is a VERY important skill. Acknowledge their feelings, opinions or tough situation. Be nonjudgmental. Acknowledge them by repeating back what they are experiencing. Say things like “I can see where are you coming from” and “that sounds like a tough situation.” Resist the temptation to jump in and give solutions to their problems or giving your opinion. It is very powerful to validate another person’s feelings or problems. See the video below for a humorous example.

“E” – (use an) Easy Manner. Smile! Adopt a light-hearted attitude. Be warm and inviting. Soften your face and posture.

There it is: the GIVE skill. Very simple. I‘ve found this very useful interacting with family, friends and co-workers. For instance, if one of my daughters has a difficult social interaction with another person that she is telling me about while I’m in the middle of doing some work I stop and think “let’s do some GIVE Skill!” Pausing, thinking about these four factors, and then interacting has really been helpful in having more meaningful social interactions. LIkewise, it is useful to adopt at work when you might be busy or stressed and a co-worker wants to talk. Stop and focus – run through the GIVE criteria. It can really help with interpersonal relations and deeping the quality of relationships.

Here’s a FANTASTIC video (and funny) about the importance of validating someone instead of trying to solve their problems:


  1. I liked that column the first time and like it again today .

    This is a wonderful skill to learn how to deal with emotionally charged interactions with loving kindness and compassion.

    Thanks again for the reminder.

  2. Fantastic!

    IFOD delivers wisdom once again.

    Brilliant . Thank you!


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