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Effective Persuasion Strategies in Romantic Relationships

The best tactics people use to change the minds of their lovers and partners.

Over the years, I have shared a number of persuasion strategies for use in intimate and romantic relationships. For example, I have written about the influential effects of touch on a date or mate. Previous articles have also explored the persuasive effects of making small requests before asking for a date.

Additional articles have evaluated which types of persuasion and influence strategies work best for specific relationship goals as well. For example, I reviewed various tactics people use to initially attract a mate and techniques they use to initiate romantic relationships. In addition, I reviewed strategies people use to prevent infidelity and adultery too.

In looking back over that work, I started to wonder how people influenced and persuaded their romantic partners on a more day-to-day level as well. So, I started to research the matter and find out what strategies they use (and which are effective). Here is what I found…

Strategies of Influence in Close Relationships

I found a study by Orina, Wood, and Simpson (2002), evaluating that very topic. The researchers video recorded and evaluated discussions between 123 heterosexual couples about a disagreement they were facing in their relationship together. These evaluations measured which partner was more intent on changing the other, what strategies each partner used to persuade the other, and how much each partner’s opinion was ultimately swayed in the discussion. Specifically, the researchers evaluated strategies in three broad categories:

  • Coercion Tactics: Belittling and making fun of a partner who disagreed and displaying negative emotional reactions to get a partner to conform to their wishes.
  • Relationship Referencing Tactics: Emphasizing the importance of the relationship, stressing shared relationship outcomes, appealing to a partner’s love/concern, and using inclusive terms (e.g. we, us, our) to persuade a partner’s agreement.
  • Logic and Reasoning Tactics: Using logic and factual information to attempt to change the partner’s mind.

Results of the evaluations showed some gender differences in persuasion tactics. To start, women were more likely to be interested in influencing a change in their partner (68%) than men (32%). Women also used significantly more coercive tactics than men. Nevertheless, both women and men used relationship referencing tactics at about equal rates. In contrast though, men were significantly more likely to use logic and reasoning tactics. Men were also significantly more likely to move toward agreement with the opinion of their female partners.

Further evaluations also showed reciprocity and correlations between the tactics chosen by partners. Specifically, when women chose more coercive tactics, their male partners were also more likely to reply with coercive tactics too. Similarly, when women referenced the relationship, men were also more likely to reply with relationship referencing tactics as well.

Finally, the results of the evaluations also showed that some tactics were more persuasive than others. Specifically:

  • Relationship referencing tactics were the most persuasive for both men and women. This was particularly true for partners who felt they had a close romantic relationship.
  • Appeals to logic and reason, however, were either not effective or sometimes counter-productive.
  • Coercive tactics had the worst effects, actually driving partners toward greater disagreement when used.

Persuading Your Partner

Given the above results, there appears to indeed be better (and worse) strategies for influencing your partner on day-to-day matters and disagreements. Specifically, Referencing the Relationship appears to work very well to bring a date or mate around to your way of thinking (especially if the relationship is significant to them). As indicated above, this can be accomplished by stressing shared relationship outcomes (e.g. “This is the best choice for our relationship”) and using inclusive words when describing those outcomes (e.g. “We”, “Us”, “Our”). Overall, this helps to create a perception of you both being similar, together as a couple, and in greater agreement with each other.

During those efforts, it can also be persuasive to prompt loving thoughts in general, or to take a moment together to be mindful of how special or sacred your relationship is for you both. Building rapport and good conversation skills can help here too. The influential effects of touch on a date or mate might be of benefit here as well.

In contrast, appealing to Logic and Reason alone doesn’t seem to work in these situations. This is largely because romantic relationships are both emotional and logical. Therefore, while it may be beneficial to sometimes directly ask for what you want, or openly discuss what each of you need in the relationship, those strategies are most effective when coupled with some of the more emotional and relational tactics above.

Finally, it is important to note that Coercive tactics can create more resentment and disagreement. In fact, as I have discussed elsewhere, being coercive and punishing toward a partner can backfire. Therefore, if your goal is to get your partner to agree with you, then you are better off using some of the other approaches described above. Beyond that, taking the opposite approach and creating a rewarding relationship can be quite persuasive too.

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© 2017 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.

References

Orina, M. M., Wood, W., & Simpson, J. A. (2002). Strategies of influence in close relationships. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 459-472.

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