Some of the most powerful and influential leaders of our time can teach us some things about building relationships and rapport with others. When dealing with unrest and conflict, they will consider what the other side has to say. They take it in, absorb it, and find out what it means and why this stance is so important. One such leader was a man named Anatol Rapoport who was an international mediator. Rapoport helped us understand that to be influential we must first accept influence from others. One of Dr. John Gottman’s research findings showed that a predictor of a happy marriage was the husband’s ability to accept influence from his wife. Dr. Gottman then adapted Rapoport’s mediation techniques to help couples learn how to manage their differences better by listening to each other and accept influence from each other.
What does this concept mean exactly? Accepting influence is finding a way to consider another’s point of view as valid. It means that we see the issue from the other person’s perspective and consider how that person might feel about the situation. It requires that we ask open ended questions to find out the history around the issue, and search for what the issue means to the other person. Helpful questions to ask are: What is so important about this issue for you? What are your core values and beliefs here? Is there a story behind this for you? It requires that we have empathy for the other person. What are your guiding feelings here? This does not mean that one point of view is right and the other is wrong. Nor does it mean that we must give up our own position. Accepting influence is finding a way to say “Yes”, or “That makes sense”. Influential people develop a curiosity about the situation and seek to understand it.
Sadly, if we reject influence, and develop a habit of saying “No” when approached with requests, people ultimately find ways to work around us. They stop talking to us and they stop asking for what they want or need. So instead of getting what we want, we end up being left out. In successful relationships both people find that their needs are important to and honored by their partner. When couples learn to accept influence from each other their dreams of having that successful relationship can come true.
Written by Carrie Cole, M.Ed., LPC-S
Certified Gottman Therapist
Certified Gottman Master Trainer