My husband and I disagree on parenting. He is very strict and hard on our kids and I’m more understanding and nurturing. I think the way he parents our sensitive son is just not right, but he refuses to do it my way because he sees it as wrong. I know we should be a united front with our kids and have each other’s backs, but we both think we are right. Most of the time I give in because he’s so adamant but I resent him for always having his way and my voice doesn’t count or matter. I think his way is hurting our son, but he is so stubborn he won’t even consider that he’s wrong. Any suggestions?
What you are really asking is, "How do you deal with a spouse (or anyone) who is not open to the possibility they are wrong and refuses to compromise?"
I’m so glad you asked this because there are stubborn, opinionated, fear-driven people all around us and they can be a challenge to live or work with. First, I want you to understand why they are this way.
As a human behavior expert for the last 16 years, I believe that all bad behavior is driven by fear — and there are two core fears that drive most of it. They are the fear of failure and the fear of loss. We all have both of them in play to some degree every day, but our reactions to them can be very different.
For example, fear of failure can make some people shrink and say nothing, because it feels safer, while it makes others super-opinionated because they need the validation that comes from being right and heard. It’s the same fear, but two very different reactions.
I believe your spouse seems to be the later. He needs the validation that comes from being right to feel safe in the world. So he cannot ever admit he is wrong or he would subconsciously feel he had no value at all.
People who respond to fear of failure this way can have trouble in relationships because they find it hard to compromise, listen to others opinions, apologize or tolerate people with whom they disagree. They can also be afraid of looking bad, and a son who behaves badly could do that. People who respond to failure this way can also let ego and pride drive their behavior. They might think ego protects them, but it doesn’t create much connection in relationships.
I tell you all this because I want you to see beneath the ego to the scared person inside. If you see your spouse as scared of failure or looking bad, you will have more compassion for him.
Your spouse could also be having a fear of loss issue and might need a certain amount of control to feel safe. But people have to be ready and willing to do some personal development work before they are open to seeing their subconscious fear issues.
I want you to understand the behavior though, so you will know how to best handle the situation. Here are six suggestions for dealing with stubborn people:
1. Give them validation about whatever good behavior you see in them. Tell them often how much you appreciate their willingness to listen without fixing or consider both sides of an argument. Praise the behavior you want to see more of. People often want to live up to your highest opinion of them.
2. Ask lots of questions about an issue and see if they come up with similar solutions. They like to talk, so asking questions and listening gets them to open up. Ask them if they have any other ideas? Keep asking them to think it through and come up with other ideas. Do this until they reach one you both agree on.
3. When you need to discuss an issue and you really want to be heard, ask questions and listen to their opinions first. Then ask permission to share your ideas. Specifically ask them if they would be willing to be quiet, not interrupt or say anything for five minutes and let you fully explain your opinion before they respond. Ask them if they would be willing to consider your thoughts and not be too quick to shoot them down, because they are strongly held ideas and their rejection would be painful for you. Get their commitment before you say a word.
4. Then, phrase your opinion or ideas using lots of "I" statements. "I feel…" "I have observed…" "I believe…" "I really think…". It is hard for people to argue with your right to your perspective. They may think differently, but they must honor your right to see it your way.
5. If they are deeply in fear, to the degree of being unable to listen to other suggestions, don’t take it personally. I believe it is not about you — it is about their fears about themselves. When they solve those, they can then access their love and willingness to hear others.
6. Gently remind your spouse that their value is not on the line with your son’s behavior and that you both have to keep checking yourself, to make sure you aren’t making it about you. No matter how your son turns out, you still have the exact same value as everyone else.
If you try these things and nothing works, you may want to consider some counseling or coaching together. A third-party can often help resolve stubborn behavior in relationships.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a human behavior expert behind www.12shapes.com She hosts a weekly Relationship Radio show on Voice American and iTunes.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.