In this study, we examined how close relationship partners spontaneously influence each other while they discussed an existing problem in their relationship. According to theories of social influence, people in important, self-defining relationships should experience the relationship itself as a potent source of influence. Thus, they are likely to rely on the relationship as a source of power and to use influence strategies that reference relationship norms and values. Consistent with this reasoning, dating partners who were subjectively closer to their partners/relationships were more likely to reference the relationship in their influence attempts than those who were less subjectively close. Furthermore, referencing the relationship was an effective influence strategy. Greater referencing was associated with opinion shifts during discussions for both agents and targets of influence, with each compromising toward the other's position. In contrast, greater use of negative coercion as an influence strategy (e.g., derogation of the partner or punishment) was associated with less compromise.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Preparation of the manuscript was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (1R01MH619000-01) to Wendy Wood and by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS9732476) to Jeffry A. Simpson. We thank Deborah Kashy and Lorne Campbell for their invaluable assistance with the Actor–Partner Interdependence Model analyses. Minda Oriña is now in the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern California.