In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy we strive to show you that when we get angry during a conflict the likelihood of successfully persuading the other person to adopt our point of view goes down. Interpersonal anger is nearly always self-defeating. We often become less creative as we get angry and close our ears to the other person’s response. These interpersonal maneuvers tend not to facilitate agreement in most people.
REBT advocates that you acknowledge that as you communicate with another person you are also communicating with yourself. You are thinking about the resistance you are encountering and disturbing yourself about it. REBT teaches that you anger yourself by holding an implied belief such as “Because my point of view is so clear to me this other person absolutely should adopt it. It must be right!” This point of view is what is called a non sequitur. The conclusion does not follow logically from the premise. Although your point of view is clear to you it does not logically follow that another person absolutely should or must adopt it nor is it absolutely right.
REBT teaches that fallible humans are prone to thinking with non sequiturs. We easily fall prey to this self-defeating way of reasoning. When we engage in such sloppy thinking we are likely to experience anger and emotional upset.
In the previous example, a logical conclusion which would follow from the premise is as follows, “Because my point of view is so clear to me, this is precisely why it is difficult and disappointing that it is not equally clear to this other person. I believe it is correct but others may not reason as I do. It is too bad we do not agree so let me listen well to better understand their point of view.” If you reasoned this way you would replace your self-defeating anger for healthy disappointment. This feeling of disappointment would enable you to continue to communicate with the other person but in a more open manner allowing you to creatively frame your argument and listen to the subsequent response. You would retain passion for your point of view while relinquishing your dogmatic stance.
In REBT we argue that if you accept people “as is” you will have a much easier time living well with them whether or not they eventually adopt your point of view. Albert Ellis and Ted Crawford in their helpful book Making Intimate Connections nicely point out that their principle guideline for couples who are desirous of a great relationship and improved communication is to accept your partner “as is.” They point out that if you avoid blaming your partner and see that you are in the relationship to enjoy yourself you will enhance communication. Unfortunately, couples often try to fix, reform, or straighten out each other with pernicious results. This kind of interpersonal misstep is not confined to married couples. We often attempt to fix, reform, or straighten out the misguided people we come in contact with every day at school, work, and in our communities. It would be far better if we were responsible for our own feelings and allowed ourselves to influence the other person without demanding that they change as we each desire. If you learn to accept people “as Is” you just may find that your attempts to influence them will be more successful as you will convey unconditional other acceptance for the individual and allow them to influence, persuade and inform you too!