In a recent post, we talked about why accepting influence can revolutionize your relationship. Today, let’s take that a step further. I’d like to help you understand how to accept influence — and give you a few tools to use in your everyday life.
Welcoming your partner’s input and opinions — accepting influence — is a powerful strategy for developing deeper connection, respect, and trust in your relationship. The Gottmans teach that learning to accept influence is about finding ways to say “yes” to one another, which I love. As you embrace a more gentle, humble stance, it leaves room for curiosity — and even surprising outcomes that you might never have expected from your relationship with your partner.
But learning to accept influence doesn’t just happen. It requires turning towards your partner and opening yourself up to them with intention. And sometimes, when you’re getting started, it might require a few ground rules.
Maybe this looks like coming up with a signal, a safe-word of sorts that allows your partner to communicate how they don’t feel they’re being heard or respected. To be clear, I don’t believe most men — or people in general — mean to be offensive or mean or disrespectful. But communication breakdowns happen all the time — none of us are immune to this. If you feel that your partner is being those things, agree with one another on a signal.
Every couple has a phrase or signal they can use to help one another better accept influence. But what works for one couple may not work for another.
Maybe it’s a time-out signal, one that says, “Hold on. I don’t feel like you’re open to accepting my influence right now. I need you to pause and hear me.”
Or perhaps your signal looks like a gentle word like, “Umm… You’re doing that thing you do” or, “Can we take a step back so we can both have input?” Using a word or a phrase in this way can lead to an opening, a different outcome.
Leading with vulnerability can work very well, too. Phrases like, “I don’t feel like I’m being heard right now” or, “I need you to listen” help us to express the need for empathy, gentleness, and loving compassion.
Finding what will work in your relationship is the most important thing. If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to sharing influence and accepting influence — to the great benefit of your relationship.
Here’s what my husband, Eric, has to say about his own experience with accepting influence:
“I think it starts with a softened start-up. With Sabrina, very often she’ll say something to the effect that she appreciates how deeply I think about things. She knows from The 5 Love Languages that physical touch and words of affirmation are important to me. She might touch my shoulder or take my hand and start with a gentle word, a softened start-up like, “Have you thought about it this way?” When she leads with that gentle word, I’m inclined to listen more — and better — because my defenses are down. I know she values me. She’s not trying to confront me.
We often talk about how important it is to take the Core Values Index™ assessment with your spouse — and learn one another’s by heart. Doing that will help you both enter into a safe and a very powerful relationship in which you can share what you’re really feeling.”
Once you understand the value and impact of accepting influence in your relationship, we’re confident you’ll want to get to work on making it a part of your life together right away. But like anything, learning how to do that takes practice and time.
One great way to get a jump-start on accepting influence — and understanding each other’s Core Values — is to attend The Art and Science of Love, our world-renowned weekend conference for couples created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman.
Ready to get started? Register here today. We can’t wait to see what an impact it has on your relationship!