One of the best ways to promote closeness and positive feelings in intimate relationships is by using one simple word as much as possible, namely “yes.”
It’s amazing to me how many people do not have their default setting on “yes” when asked to do something for their loved ones. Instead, they often hedge by saying “maybe,” “we’ll see,” “I’m not sure,” or some other noncommittal response.
Even worse, some people have their default set on automatic “no” when a request is made of them!
When a loved one asks you to grant a favor or agree to a simple request, unless you have a very good reason to say “no,” the only sensible response is to say “yes,” “sure,” “no problem,” or some other affirmative. Of course, if you’re asked to do something unreasonable, or clearly inappropriate, you can always decline despite having already said “yes.”
For example, if your spouse says “Honey, will you do me a favor?” it would be clever for you to say “Sure, what is it?” If you’re then asked to drive to the airport during rush hour to collect your mother-in-law, it’s perfectly okay to say “Gee, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that after all.” (Of course, having a spouse who might be in the habit of making unreasonable requests deserves a post unto itself, but I offer this example just as illustrative.)
Related to this, and also a powerful way to nourish important relationships, is the “alternative and/or specific time technique.”
Thus, if your loved one suggests an activity that you’re not keen to do, rather than merely saying “no,” suggest an alternative that the two of you might both enjoy. For instance, if you’re asked to go to see a local dance troupe, instead of saying “No, I have no interest in seeing that,” say, “I’m really not into seeing a dance performance, but how about we go out to dinner and a movie of your choosing?” With the airport example above, after saying “Gee, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that after all,” adding some alternative such as “Maybe we can ask her to use Uber, or we can send a car service for her instead?” would be reasonable and less likely to lead to conflict or resentment.
Similarly, if your loved one asks to talk with you, or that you do something when it might not be the best time for you, rather than simply saying “We can discuss it later,” or “I’ll do it some other time,” specify exactly when you’ll be available to talk or intend to do the requested task. For example, saying “I really don’t want to discuss it right now, can we talk about it at 7:00?” Or, “I’ll put away my laundry after the program I’m watching” will engender more positive feelings than a brush off or flat refusal.
The upshot is simple but powerful when it comes to promoting love and closeness through skillful communication:
1. Say “yes” as much as possible. You are not committed nor going back on your word if you subsequently refuse to comply with an unreasonable request.
2. If you reject an overture or suggestion to do something with your loved one, be sure to provide an alternative (or two) that you both might enjoy doing.
3. If you refuse to talk about something, or do a specific task at the moment, be sure to state a specific time when you’d be willing to have the discussion or do the requested task.
Remember: Think well, Act well, Feel well, Be well!
Copyright 2017 Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.
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This post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional assistance or personal mental health treatment by a qualified clinician.