Emotion Coaching for Couples: Part 4 | How to Accept Influence and Why That’s Important

Applying Parenting Emotion Coaching to Couples

Part four of a five-part series on shifting your mindset to become a more capable Emotion Coach, and more Emotion Coachable.
Emotionally intelligent couples are more likely to feel connected, supported, and loved in their intimate relationship. And, emotionally intelligent couples are more likely to raise emotionally intelligent children.

Step #4: Be open to accepting your partner’s influence.

4 Horsemen

Watch out for the 4 Horsemen in yourself and work to replace them with healthier responses.

This step I have added in more specifically for couples than what is detailed in the parenting version of emotion coaching. That’s because one of the biggest barriers for adults to being an emotion coach for our partner is rejecting one another’s influence.

A sure sign that I am not accepting influence is when I slip into any one of the 4 Horsemen. This looks like: being critical, either in my mind or with my words or actions; feeling defensive of my stance and position, either through

Healthier responses are taking steps for self-soothing, taking responsibility, being assertive rather than being passive or aggressive.

Aggressive Responses

Another language for noticing that I’m rejecting influence from my partner is if I become aggressive in my responses – critical, blaming, or accusatory, or passive – avoiding, complying, accommodating in ways that leave me feeling angry, sad or resentful afterwards.

My friend and colleague, Zach Brittle, LMHC, shared his formula for what to do if you know that you have a hard time accepting influence from your partner. First, be willing to take responsibility for your struggle to accept influence. Own it and embrace it as an area of personal growth. Next, identify your favorite ways of rejecting influence. Become aware of how you’re interacting with your partner. If you shift into aggression, redraw the lines of what is acceptable to say or do into a more respectful mode. Learn to be assertive – standing up for your own needs without stepping on or hurting anyone else. If you find yourself slipping into a more passive mode, also learn to assert yourself clearly, speaking up and expressing your needs, wishes, or preferences. Maybe you write these down and practice saying them aloud to yourself or a friend before bringing them to your partner.


Third, commit to being a person who accepts influence and invite your partner to be your ally in this endeavor. This means you’ll need to hear and at least seriously consider the validity of their input about what their experience is like interacting with you in hard moments.


Fourth, re-evaluate and shift your definition of “winning” in relationship. If one of you is winning and the other is losing, that creates an imbalance and a power struggle, which feels awful to at least one of you, if not both. Commit to finding solutions that embrace the needs and desires of both of you to some degree. Finally, keep working on improving all the other skills of being an emotion coach.