Accepting Influence: The Secret of a Successful Relationship

accepting influence in relationships

Accepting influence is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship.

This article, based on John Gottman’s research, explains:

  1. The theory of accepting influence
  2. Real life examples of accepting and refusing influence
  3. How you can become more accepting of your partner’s influence
date conversation, man accepting influence
Listening, caring about her opinion and accepting influence pays off (as long as you’re not kissing up)

Why You Should Care About Relationship Influence

Let’s start with a big WHY first.

Why should you care and why should you learn to accept influence.

Researches show that there’s a strong correlation between accepting the partner’s influence and both the level of happiness and the life expectancy of the relationship.

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work  Gottman says that 81% of couples that don’t accept influence split up.

And of course, even if you don’t split up, you end in a combative relationship which really does not make your life a great one.

What is Relationship Influence

Let seek a definition:

Accepting influence means taking your partner’s opinion into account, and being open to use her (or his) input to decide together on what to do as a couple.

Basically, it means that for decisions that impact both of you, both of you get a saying.
Sounds fair, right?

And from a power dynamics point of view, accepting influence providers the relationship leader with more legitimacy and, ultimately, more power.

Gender Gap: Accepting Influence Is Harder For Men

Accepting influence is harder for men.

Research shows that a majority of women—even in unhappy relationships—do accept influence.

It doesn’t mean of course women are always agreeable or make fewer mistakes.
But it does mean they let their men influence their decision making and that they do take their men’s opinions and feelings into account.

It also seems that it’s mostly and heterosexual men’s issue. Heterosexual men are indeed the very worst at accepting influence.
Research shows that that same-sex couples, including gays, are far better at sharing power and influence.

No Men Bashing

If you’ve been reading around, this is not a website to belittle men.
This a website to grow and empower. And empowerment starts from knowledge.
Knowing that we as men have a tendency to resist influence -and that tendency is undermining our relationships- is the first step towards getting better.

If only one partner wins, then they’re both losing

It’s Not About Giving Away Power

This article is also not to say that men should give up all their power.

Relinquishing all power is the safest way to turn a woman off.
But it does mean that men should share more power and take their partner’s opinion more into account.

Example of accepting influence from a position of power

In my last relationship, for example, I’d openly tell my girlfriend that the man should be the one in charge.
But it’s a sharing the decision kind of thing, as she’s the second in command.

And based on the division of tasks and responsibilities, of course, there are situations where I am the sole decision maker or she is the sole decision maker.
An the other simply trusts the partner to handle those matters.

Influence and Conflict Resolution

There’s a strong correlation between accepting influence and the ability to tackle issues successfully.

Indeed The Four Horsemen of criticism, contempt, stonewalling and, most of all, defensiveness, are often the sign that a partner is resisting influence.

And it’s not a coincidence that 65% of men increase negativity during an argument. It’s because they are resisting influence with a barrage of counterattacks instead.

What Accepting Influence Does

Contrary to what some might think, accepting your partner’s influence is the best way to acquire more respect, power and influence.

Cialdini in his seminal Influence shows that even in business negotiations, giving and compromising on something is a great indicator of successful negotiation outcomes.

Women are also more likely to be kinder during confrontations when their partners accept their influence.

How to Accept Influence: Mental Shift

There is a very, very simple way to fix all influence-related issues in a relationship.

It requires a shift in the way people see the world.
It’s about going from a zero-sum game of win or lose and “I” VS “her” to an “us”.

It’s about deciding together, finding compromises both are happy with and respecting our partner. We should want our partner to be happy and to participate in the decision.

Anything else is relationship-deranged thinking.

Examples of Accepting Influence

And here are a few ways of dealing with relationship power struggles:

#1. Refusal of Influence

Look at this example.

Grant Cardone utterly refuses her influence on the topic. And goes even one step beyond when he recruits the help of the people in the audience to isolate her.
Simply terrible.

See if for yourself:

Her reaction says it all.

#2. Fake Acceptance of Influence

The Godfather when Kay is leaving alternates from a fake acceptance of influence to outright refusal.

Fake Acceptance
When he says “I will change Kay” he is giving her a front about changing. But it doesn’t sound sincere.

He doesn’t take the time to listen to her, doesn’t take the time understand her, which would show that he cares.
It’s no coincidence that when he says: “I know how you felt” he actually totally misses the point.

Refusal of Influence
When he tells her the discussion is over, that’s an obvious refusal of influence.

Accepting Influence Quiz

Ask yourself the following questions about. Does your partner:

  • Listen attentively to your opinion and needs
  • Make you feel what you say count
  • Listen even when you’re having an argument
  • Takes care you share your point of view
  • Respects you during disagreements and conflicts
  • Avoid making it all about winning
  • Believe in give and take
  • Believe in “shared leadership”
  • Use all his persuasion skills when deciding about something
  • Approaches problems with a win-win mentality
  • Approaches problems like you need to solve them, not win them
  • Lets you finish to make your point
  • Tells you when you have a good idea
  • Usually looks for points of agreements
  • Largely avoids getting overly emotional (or hysterical)

If you answer yes, than you (or your partner) are able to accept each other’s influence.
If your answers are mostly no, then you need to work on this. And make sure you or your partner do not below to the power addict category, in which case external help might be needed:

People Who Refuse Influence

Some people have a domineering, bossy tendency.

These people, who often are power-hungry individuals, have difficulty in accepting influence.

And these are exactly the people who need to work the hardest on themselves and on their relationships.
There’s a different, more problematic breed of people who refuse influence though. These are what we call “power addicts”. For power addicts it’s almost impossible to share power and accept influence.
I wrote an article on it:

In a nutshell, it’s hard to even get these people to change because they see changing/not changing as another power struggle they need to win (instead of a step towards a better life and relationship).


Accepting your partner’s influence, deciding together and caring about what she thinks is really one of the best things you can do in your relationship.

And it’s exactly what high quality men, relationship leaders do.

It’s one of the pillars upon which any healthy relationship rest.
I think the following quote will perfectly summarize this article:

Accepting your partner influence communicates you care and respect her. And it means being in it together, as an us instead of I.

Further Reading:

Or in one go, get the relationship manual:

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