Home Personal Development Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Problem solving to do what’s effective (and get what you want)

Problem solving to do what’s effective (and get what you want)


Everyone has been in a situation where someone has said or done something to anger or offend them–then, instead of responding in an effective way that would get them what they want, they simply flew off the handle and spoke their mind to relieve the discomfort.

There’s a very cool and simple DBT skill for dealing with such situations.

If you’re not familiar with DBT, it’s a style of therapy and set of life skills that will help you deal with any situation like a well-balanced adult–and get the outcome you desire in the process. It’s amazing. I teach a lot of it here, but if you’re interested, you should take a class in it. To find a DBT teacher/therapist near you, just search online or contact me if you need help!

The skill I’m going to teach you here is called “Missing Link Analysis”.

It basically helps you problem solve any situation where you feel like you didn’t act in a way that got you the outcome that you wanted. In other words, you didn’t do what was effective.

Here’s an example from my life…

The example below might seem petty, but applying this skill to even the most mildly irritating encounters in your life will have a drastic effect on your ability to use it in more emotionally charged situations.

Here’s what happened…

I posted a link to one of my blog posts on Reddit–if you’re not familiar with Reddit, it’s a forum where people discuss a wide variety of topics.

The post was a gallery of images detailing a recipe my good friend (and Chef) from Italy loves to make for people.

I thought the post was interesting, and relevant to the people reading that section of the site. After all, many of them are there to read about recipes, and one of the categories you can choose when posting is “Homemade”, meaning you can tell people about your creation. Perfect!

I posted it, and got a few positive comments.

Then, someone came along who was upset by the fact that I chose to post the story on my personal blog commented.

I was irritated by that, but I’m trying to be understanding of everyone’s opinion, so I tried to validate their feelings about it, while explaining where I’m coming from.

I was hurt by the fact that I was being accused of some misdeed, but I decided to act effectively in this case by being open and understanding. I already felt like I’d done a good job by responding to this one comment calmly and rationally, but little did I know, there were more challenges ahead (but, hey such is life).

The comment that REALLY irked me was the one that followed, where another commenter told me what to do and added a not so subtle dig about my ability as a marketer to the end (or at least I read it that way, given the context of the comment). See image above for the comment.

I highly value my freedom, and independence. I absolutely hate being told what to do. I also hate having my abilities questioned or insulted–especially when it’s something I spend a lot of time on and express see as an expression of my identity.

I wanted to tear this person apart, talk shit, tell them to stop being such an entitled fuck, and get them to understand that what I’m doing isn’t wrong. But there is no way I am going to get what I want by acting in this way.

Ultimately what I want is to act in a manner that is in line with my values and identity. Among other things, I am a marketer, a professional, and a mental health advocate.

How can I call myself any of those things if I’m not making an effort to respond to naysayers with a calm, collected, and understanding attitude?

So, I decided to do what’s effective.

I first told them that I understand where they’re coming from–this is an important step in communicating with other people called validation. It’s an amazing communication hack that makes anyone feel heard and understood. It disarms them and makes them ready to listen to you. TRY IT!

I  then went on to give my side of the story, and expressed willingness to do take a different approach if I decide to post again. I then realized that this style of thinking is exactly what makes someone a good marketer. Good marketers do what works. Good marketers are effective.

Annoying little situations like this are amazing learning and growth opportunities.

I challenge you to try it the next time one comes up in your life.

What do you really value in the situation? How can you be effective, and get what you want out of the interaction, rather than letting your emotions take over?

The worksheet/handout you can use to work through these kinds of problems is below. You can find all of the DBT worksheets / handouts here–fair warning, they won’t make a lot of sense without some explaining of key concepts. You can learn a lot about DBT here, and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!

The skills constantly improve my relationships, and make me a better person, friend, marketer, and entrepreneur.

There isn’t an area in my life that isn’t positively affected. And I know you’ll get the same results if you give it enough time and effort!