Some of us are obsessed with attaining that which is better than what we have, and striving for it. This is the essence of human motivation, felt more by some than others. We are a very goal-oriented species, evident in the moon landing as well as the Olympics. For those who strive to be their best, this drive is projected into our environment in so many ways. We work hard to have a nice home, a solid career, we read magazines trying to work healthier, tastier meals into our diet, we keep on the lookout for a better exercise program, we search for a car in our budget that looks nice and gets good gas mileage. We even try and limit our carbon footprint. This drive does not limit itself to our environment and the world outside of us. It also takes place in the realm of personal growth. We want to be smarter, stronger, more compassionate, with sharper skills, and better relationships in our work and personal life. Generally speaking, we know how to build a better us. We work harder. We know how to select the better car and we have ideas about improving our home. But we often hit a roadblock when it comes to building a better or more loving relationship. If you are lost on that front, here are four psychological techniques that you can use, that are sure to do the trick.
If you want to influence your partner’s behavior, nagging or blaming isn’t going to do it. Negative strategies put us and our partner at odds, creating an adversarial dynamic. If they think you are their opponent, or that you are commanding or belittling them, they are far less likely to conform. Instead, use a positive twist. This is called the Pygmalion effect. According to psychologist Robert Rosenthal, holding positive expectations of our partner’s behavior is a subtle way we can nudge them toward change. In Rosenthal’s experiment, teachers who held high intellectual expectations of their students saw significant gains in scholastic performance. With a “you can do it” attitude, you can influence your partner to rise to any occasion, and bring out the best in them. Has your partner been stressed lately? Who isn’t, right? A considerable amount of stress can weigh heavily on any relationship. Give a little time each day to listen and allow them to vent. Then when it’s your turn, you are likely to get this in return. This is social support. If they are nothing but negative at this time and it’s sucking out your soul, try what is known as cognitive reframing. Here, you can reframe the story in a positive light.
The best couples are those who feel they can freely discuss their deep inner thoughts with their partner, without judgment or ridicule. But sometimes we want to interject so badly, that we forget how important it is just to show the respect of listening. On top of that, we can sometimes snap to quick judgments, shutting our partner down instead of coming to understand them and supporting them. Practice emphatic listening. This is listening with the emphasis solely of trying to understand and empathize with your partner. This type of action has been shown to relieve stress, strengthen trust, and deepen the bond between partners. The last and most important strategy is positive regard. This is when you clear all judgment from your mind, regardless of what your partner has done, say, in the past before you two were together, or in some matter inconsequential to your relationship. Instead, show unbridled love, curiosity, and compassion. Most of these don’t work perfectly the first time you try them. They take a lot of patience. You will also have to make them your own, which takes practice. But if you can adopt these into your relationship, and have your partner do so too, you will see a remarkable difference in understanding, regard, synchronicity, and satisfaction between you and your partner.
For more such strategies read, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship by Clinton Power.