Unfortunately, when we don't accept influence from our spouse or partner, our loved one feels 'less than'. He or she feels less important, less considered, less respected. And that sets up a cycle of negativity that generally goes nowhere good.
So how can we get better at accepting influence? It starts with an attitude adjustment. Yep, you "begin with the end in mind". Borrowing a concept from Stephen Covey's best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (what is is about the number 7 anyhow?) - Beginning with the end in mind is knowing before you start something what you want to accomplish, and seeing far-reaching goals as clearly as you see the more immediate, short term goals.
For example, let's say you and your spouse are talking about what to do over the weekend. You can "begin with the end in mind" by remembering that you want him or her to feel heard, and you want to share this weekend so that you both get to do things that are important to each of you, as much as is reasonably possible. So when you begin the conversation of "What are we going to do this weekend?" you already have the longer term goal in mind of working towards a situation where one person doesn't get their way at the expense of the other. This is in contrast to the shorter term goal of "winning", or getting your own way. Even though this attitude adjustment sounds very simple, it is profoundly powerful.
"When we practice accepting influence, we are going against a fundamental urge in our human nature: to want to be correct, to be proved right, to be validated, and to be dominant."
- Dr. Beth Schmit, Psychologist & Gottman 7 Principles Educator
It is easy to imagine that with a set up like that, the conversation is likely to quickly go off the rails and descend into the Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling), and in no time at all we'll both be feeling pretty bad - bad about ourselves, and each other.
So I can hear some of you saying ... Dr. Schmit, this sounds like "Yes, Dear"... Well, yes and no. What you are really looking for when you are practicing accepting influence is "What part of this request is reasonable? What part of this request can I honor and agree to, while still respecting my own needs?" So while there is an ongoing attitude of being flexible in responding to your partner's requests, it is not just saying "yes" all the time to make the other person happy at your expense.
So here's a challenge for you - This week, try to set up your attitude ahead of time to be more accepting of your partner's influence. Look for the points of agreement in what you hear. See what happens, and let me know how it goes!
Dr. Beth Schmit
& Gottman 7 Principles Program Educator
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