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It is all too common to get locked in power struggles in dating and relating. From time to time, we all knock heads. We all want something different and needs clash.
Rather than getting stuck at "who is right" and "you can't make me," you can always find the benefit of a bit of influence. More precisely, there are strategies to motivate your date, mate, or lover to WANT to do things your way. There are tips to bring them around to your way of thinking. So, find out how to get those dishes done, lawn mowed, or vacation booked...
While completing my MSW, I learned of a therapeutic technique called Motivational Interviewing. Designed primarily for addiction and other folks who had difficulty changing, the technique fostered the patient's own motivation, rather than being directive, coercive, or forceful. Essentially, the process helped create a partnership between patient and therapist around why the patient "might want to" do something desired, rather than a power struggle around why the patient "should" or "had to" do it.
One of my fellow PT bloggers, Michael Pantalon has updated, revised, and streamlined this approach in his book Instant Influence. With a few simple changes in your statements and questioning, this approach can be easily used to diffuse relationship woes. It is also a great way to sidestep battling for control, get your partner to look at things from a new perspective, and motivate them to do what you want. Basically, it changes the discussion from why they "should" be doing what you ask... to why they "might want to".
According to Pantalon's book and blog, the basic Instant Influence process involves:
1) Reinforce the other person's freedom and autonomy—No one likes to be "forced" or "pushed around." When anyone feels that their freedom is being threatened or controlled, they often dig their heels in and do the opposite (called Reactance). Therefore, to break the ice, it is best to support their freedom instead. Remind them that it is indeed "their choice" to take out the trash, buy you flowers, etc.
2) Look for positive motivation—People are often more motivated than you think (especially when they are not being forced). However, to find that positive motivation, you have to ask positive questions! So, do not focus on why they "are not" doing what you want. Instead, ask them "why they might" do what you'd like. Phrase the questions in a POSITIVE manner, leading them in the direction that you'd like them to think (and go).
3) Repeat points of agreement—Your partner will follow your focus. If you get stuck on some negative statement they make, or a point of disagreement, conversation will stall there. Instead, focus on where they AGREE with you and move from there. Repeat their positive statements. Ask more questions that get them to agree further.
Let's suppose Chris and Pat are a couple, squabbling about how Chris never takes Pat on any "good" dates. Both are entrenched in their positions. Pat feels hurt and overlooked. Chris feels attacked and unfairly criticized. It is a mess all around...
Now, let's see what happens when Pat employs the steps above.
Pat: If it were completely up to me, I'd like us to go on one nice date a week. But, it isn't all my choice. It is up to you too. Your feelings and choice matter. (Reinforcing Autonomy).
Chris: It's not like I NEVER take you out. I do choose to make plans and go out with you sometimes, you know.
Pat: I know you do and I enjoy it. The times when you make plans and ask me out, why do you decide to do it? (Motivation).
Chris: Well... I have a lot of fun with you. Sometimes it is nice to get away from everything with you too. We can just de-stress and have a good time. I can use the break now and then.
Pat: Yeah, we do have a lot of fun and de-stressing is good too. (Repeating). How could we make sure we take a break now and then?
Chris: I guess we could go out a bit more. Maybe try to make regular plans? I suppose one night a week wouldn't be too much.
Pat: If that works for you, I would really enjoy that. What day of the week would you like to go out on?
When you find yourself in a power struggle with your date or mate, wrestling for control, take a step back. Remember to use a little influence... not coercion, bullying, or nagging. Reinforce your lover's autonomy and freedom of choice. Use a few motivating questions. Focus on the positive aspects of their responses. In no time, your problems in the living room, kitchen, or bedroom will clear up.
Yes, you can motivate clean dishes, loving dates, or more intimate attention too! Just remember to use a little influence...
Go to www.AttractionDoctor.com for more dating and relationship advice (in helpful categories)!
Until next time...happy dating and relating!
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© 2012 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.