Text -- 304-412-4065 Danny@DannyPettry.com

Interpersonal effectiveness skills training is one of the four key skill sets taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  DBT was created by Marsha Linehan specifically as a treatment for people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

DBT has shown to be effective for the treatment for several other behavioral health needs as well.

Being interested in other people is one interpersonal skill from DBT for making and keeping effective relationships. This skill is the” I” (being interested) from the GIVE acronym of interpersonal effectiveness skills.

How do you teach children and teenagers to become interested in other people?

Teaching effective listening skills is one technique.

I like to provide the teens with this visual on a sheet of paper or dry erase board:

 2 ears > 1 mouth

Two ears are greater than one mouth.


Here are some pre-group discussions to ask:

  • Why are two ears greater than one mouth?
  • How can you tell a person is definitely NOT listening?
  • How can you tell a person is listening and paying attention?
  • What makes it difficult to listen and pay attention?
  • How do you feel when you listened to?
  • How do you imagine other people will feel if you listen to them, pay attention to them, be interested in them? They’ll probably feel “pretty good” in your company.
  • What are the benefits for being a good listener? How can this skill help you in life?
  • How can being a good listener help you to make and keep relationships?


Introduce the word: Paraphrasing.

Write it on the dry erase board or a handout.

Explain the definition as repeating what someone said in fewer or less words to show that you were paying attention. It is like proving a brief summarization.


Provide an example of paraphrasing:

Ask a random person (we’ll call her Carrie) what is her favorite ice cream flavor.

Pretend for this example that Carrie replies, “Rocky Road.”

As the group leader, tell the group members that I’m going to paraphrase what Carrie said. She said she likes Rocky Road ice cream.


Game time:

Tell group members they’re going to participate in a game that rewards listening.

One group member will be called upon to answer a question. These questions can be pre-created. I suggestion using The Conversatoin Piece book by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie. 

Randomly select another group member to paraphrase what the last person said. If that person is able to paraphrase then they get a random question. They won’t be able to paraphrase if they weren’t paying attention. Skip to another person and ask them to paraphrase the last person’s response.

Continue asking questions and asking other group members to paraphrase until everyone has had a least one to three turns paraphrasing someone else’s answer.


Wrap-up discussion:

  • Ask group members to share aloud an answer to one of these following questions
  • What did you learn or gain from this session?
  • How can this session help them in life?
  • What was the purpose of the activity?
  • What do you think this group was attempting to teach group members?