I know something about coping with an opinionated partner. My wife is married to one. Interestingly, so am I. Funny how that works out.
The first thing to note about coping with an opinionated partner is that you’re in partnership, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a business relationship. This is important because you have leverage in the relationship. You and your partner want to be in partnership. If that isn’t the case (or if you realize you don’t want to continue the partnership), stop reading. The partnership is over.
Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or a business relationship with your opinionated partner, coping is not a problem. Simply allow your partner to have his opinions and for you to have yours. Problem solved.
Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem at all and for one very good reason: Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re every bit as opinionated as your partner. And the two of you want the other person to agree that your opinions are the correct ones. It seems like one of you will have to give in to resolve this stalemate.
But you don’t have to give in. Here are suggestions for coping with an opinionated partner:
1. Accept that to be human is to be opinionated and to want your opinions to be accepted as the correct ones. Let me amend that because my dog is loaded with opinions about where she should walk, poop and whose food she should eat (usually mine). Perhaps to be alive is too opinionated. It can’t be any other way.
2. Give up being right about your opinions. Don’t try to give up your opinions. That is impossible. Rather, simply recognize that your opinions (and your partner’s) are not the truth. If you’re attached to your opinions being the truth, you’re going to have a terrible time coping with your partner who believes her opinions are the truth (don’t tell her. It will only make her mad).
3. Your objective in coping is to arrive at an agreement for how you and your partner will behave with one another to which both of you are committed. Your objective is not to change your partner’s opinions (unless they are so opposed to your own that the partnership needs to be dissolved. For example, I couldn’t live with someone who is unkind to animals). Trying to change your partner’s opinions is pointless. In fact, the harder you try to change your partner’s opinions, the more he will resist. Again, consider the dog. The more you pull on the leash, the harder he fights. Realize that a partnership depends on different opinions. A marriage is boring if the partners agree on everything. A business relationship will falter if the creativity offered by different opinions is absent.
4. Don’t argue, listen. This is a corollary to #1. Don’t for a moment think that being reasonable will make the slightest difference. Providing reasons why your partner is wrong will only result in your partner giving her opinions as to why your reasons are wrong.
5. Do not listen silently. Rather, paraphrase whatever your partner is saying to his satisfaction. In other words, paraphrase and conclude by asking your partner, “Is that right?” (that is, “Did I understand you correctly?”). Continue paraphrasing until your partner has exhausted his opinions. This may take some time. Be patient. Your partner has been opinionated his whole life.
You will be out of conflicts faster and to the greater satisfaction of you and your partner if you follow my advice in this Step. Have you noticed how exhausting it can be to push against a brick wall? Eventually, you just give up. Paraphrasing is the “brick wall.” You’re not pushing back so you’re not exhausting yourself. Your partner is.
6. When your partner has exhausted his opinions say, “All of your opinions are valid.” If you’re so moved, you could say, “Your opinions are absolutely right.” This will completely astonish your partner. Notice: You haven’t said you agree and if your partner says, “Thanks for agreeing with me,” you must say, “I didn’t say I agree. I simply said all your opinions are valid.” The only way for your partner to counter that would be to say, “No. My opinions are all wrong.”
7. Say, “I want to tell you how grateful I am for all you’ve done in the partnership.” Give examples and be sincere. The things you don’t like will be obvious and are probably the reasons why you’re having trouble coping in the first place. Disarm your partner by fighting unfairly: Love them for who they are and what they’ve done. In other words, don’t fight at all.
8. Say to your partner, “Here’s what I want in the relationship.” Be specific. Than ask, “Will you give (what I’m asking) to me?”
9. Accept what your partner agrees to do and consider if you’re willing to live with what your partner won’t do. If you can’t get your major needs met in the partnership, there’s no point in trying to cope. It’s time to move on.
If you’d like a copy of my report “10 Tips For Resolving Conflicts With Difficult People,” go to http://www.conflictresolutiontraining.net and subscribe to my newsletter.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns about what you’ve read, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll be happy to respond.