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Kathy Marshack News

A Caution to Persuasive Spouses – Is Your Partner Agreeing or Just Acquiescing?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


acquiesence is not the same as agreeing. Communicate don't give in if you don't agreeThe art of persuasion is an interesting phenomenon. The skills of persuasion are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. However, the skills can be used in an honest and fair way or can be misused in an unethical and harmful way. It all depends on the intentions of the user and receiver in the communication.

In seeking to avoid conflict and confrontation, a persuasive person may push his or her partner to acquiesce or give in to a certain point of view, but this doesn’t mean that the partner agrees. It may mean only that the partner actually doesn’t want to fight and so appears to agree.

It’s a mistake to push to win at all costs or to acquiesce to the persuader. In either case, whether you are the persuader or the one giving in, the conflict has not been resolved and, what's worse may have been driven underground.

Take for example, a couple named Steven and Danielle. Steven is a driven businessman. He’s succeeded by sheer willpower and guts. He hasn’t let anything or anyone get in his way, not even his wife and children.

They separated when the children were little because Danielle discovered that Steven was having yet another affair. The affair went on for years and even resulted in the birth of a child. Then Steven decided to return to Danielle and their children, and Danielle acquiesced. She really wanted a divorce but couldn’t bring herself to confront Steven. Instead she hoped that he had changed, even though he continued to bully his wife and children.

Unfortunately, Steven confuses acquiescence with agreement. Danielle confuses acquiescence with cooperation. She timidly agrees to every idea that Steven suggests. Behind his back, though, she tells a different story to her children and friends. Rather than confront Steven directly, Danielle tries to cajole him into considering her opinion.

Steven has built a successful business, if you measure success in financial terms. However, there’s no trust in his marriage. And he’s destroyed the self-esteem of his children. Making money and needing to win have been Steven's ways of proving that he’s a worthy person. Unfortunately, this style has only deepened his insecurities because no one wants to spend quality time with him. They’re too afraid to open up to a man who will use against them any information he uncovers.

If you’re a natural at persuasion, be careful to consider the context in which you’re using this skill, and consider carefully what your motive or intention is. If you’re clarifying difficult points or reframing your partner’s position to help move both of you toward a mutually agreeable solution, then by all means use persuasion. But if your motives are not well intended for both parties, do not take advantage of a partner who is quick to acquiesce because she or he is afraid of confrontation. There are other, more rewarding ways to win at love than by undermining another person’s self-respect.

Are you struggling to communicate with your spouse? Do you feel like you, or your partner, give in too easily and it’s impacting the quality of your relationship? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to learn skills that help you to relate with your spouse.

The above is an excerpt from my book, Entrepreneurial Couples – Making it Work at Work and at Home. Want to read more? Get your own hardcopy or Kindle version from Amazon.



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