After reading this headline I suppose you are wondering what kind of wimp that I must be. But not so fast. Let me give you the whole story behind such a headline.
Webster’s offers three definitions for “manipulate”. Two of them are:
- To manage or utilize skillfully. To change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose. For purpose of this writing, I am using definition number one.
My wife Sherry is a very positive person. She sees the good in everyone and does not have a critical bone in her body. She has, from day one of our getting together, seen the best in me and offered it up as a compliment. (Thank goodness she has a “blind spot” or two or just knows how to keep her mouth shut when experiencing my less than wonderful side). She “catches” me doing helpful things and thanks me consistently.
Now any of you who might have taken Psychology 101 will immediately recognize that she is employing Skinnerian Operant Theory. In essence it is a reinforcement theory. It says if you want a behavior to continue and get stronger you reward the desired behavior on a consistent basis.
Because Sherry has continually reinforced my positive behaviors I have become a better man, husband and father. (You should have known me before she started her manipulation!) I certainly have a ways to go but am on the right track.
I wish more couples would follow her example. In my counseling sessions I hear individuals complain that all they get from each other are criticisms. Guess what the response is to criticism? Usually it results in an angry confrontation or a silent withdrawal takes place. Criticism rarely creates change to a positive behavior.
So, perhaps you are wondering what a spouse is to do when s/he observes a behavior that is most bothersome and is in need of changing? This is where refined communication needs to take place. In my sessions with couples I focus on the issues present and the needs of each. This approach sets the stage for a more constructive dialogue on how each can better bring his or her best self to the other.
I believe that if you love someone, notice the “given” here, you want to meet that person’s needs. This presumes, of course, that one’s needs are within the realm of reality given the best intentions and capacities of each other. If you are trying to meet the needs and desires of your loved one you will make positive progress and then, hopefully, the other will notice and compliment the effort. This should result in each person doing his or her best and being recognized for it.
This method focuses on a “fresh start” and going forward rather than re-hashing yesterday’s complaints and criticisms. Needs are offered and explained. A person commits to doing his or her best to meet that need. Positive reinforcement is offered and a person accepts the effort believing the other is doing his or her best to meet the need requested.
It is my hope that this writing has helped some people “manipulate” and be “manipulated” so that each person may positively grow into a better person and that a more loving union may result. If you need any assistance with this you can call the expert, my wife Sherry, or me and I will do my best to teach you the art of “manipulation”!
This week is our 37th wedding anniversary. I’ve just re-enlisted for 37 more years of her “manipulating” me since it has worked so well thus far!
“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates