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How To Manage Cognitive Dissonance In A Relationship – An Exceptional Factor

Written by: La'Toya Haley-Haynes, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Remember when you started questioning and thinking aloud in response to someone’s behavior? Making statements like “I know good and well they didn’t…”, “You can’t be the person I married,” and “That’s not my child acting like that.” Usually, these thoughts happen when the other person in our relationship has a differing belief, view, attitude, or behavior that causes us to be uncomfortable because it goes against ours.

woman cover her eyes while lying on a fluffy carpet

What do you do in those situations to maintain a healthy relationship? Do you just throw in the towel? Do you compromise? Do you ignore it and move on? Believe it or not, there is a term associated with this feeling. That term is “cognitive dissonance.”

Cognitive Dissonance

The Cognitive Dissonance Theory is based on the research of psychologist Leon Festinger (1957). He describes how an imbalance or inconsistency in our beliefs brings discomfort and sits in our minds and thoughts until we act. This discomfort can affect various areas of our life, especially our relationships. (See the article "Explore the effects of cognitive dissonance in your daily life.") Think about it for a minute. If you’re at work and your company tells you to hire or fire someone based on values you don’t support, you will instantly feel discomfort because your actions will go against what you believe. As a parent, your child tells you about a life-altering decision they have decided to make that goes against everything you have taught them. You will begin to feel a certain way as if you are being pulled in multiple directions before you give a verbal response. Moments like these are when we need to consider our next step if we value that relationship carefully. Cognitive Dissonance (per Coach La’Toya) is an exceptional factor that can keep you bound and stop you from having a healthy relationship with your loved ones, work family, friends, and even yourself.

The good news is there are ways to manage this exceptional factor to offset the damaging ripple effects that could affect your relationships.

Managing Cognitive Dissonance On The Job

Let’s be honest. There are policies, procedures, and ways our job may handle certain situations that go against our views, beliefs, and values. This can make it awkward to come to work, even when we need to go to provide for ourselves and our families. Aggressively voicing our opinion may not be the best option. It may feel good at the moment but could backfire the next. Below are suggested approaches to help you find peace and maintain healthy relationships at work when there is dissonance.

Approach No.1 Keep your behavior aligned with your beliefs and values.

You should not allow your work to change the things you believe in and hold valuable. If you consciously shift your thoughts or behaviors, do so because you want to and not just because of your work environment.

Approach No.2 Remember your feelings are valid.

If you do begin to feel the contradictions within, it is normal. Allow yourself to feel. Later you’ll decide how you respond next.

Approach No.3 Attempt to justify the rationale for yourself.

This approach can become sticky, but it may give you a perspective of your job and allow a separation between who you are and what the job is. It is often difficult to separate yourself from the job, especially when you form work relationships. Nonetheless, you can have peace of mind knowing how to respond when things contradict your views.

Managing Cognitive Dissonance In A DatingOr Marital Relationship

When it comes to magnetism, opposites do attract. However, when it comes to intimate connections, that is debatable. Sociologist Robert FrancisWinch completed a study in the 1950s that concluded relationships work when there are complementary personalities.

Complementary personalities mean they may be opposing, but they enhance one another and work harmoniously. For example, bold with timid; funny with serious; or traditional with modern. Even if your personalities are complementary, there can still be cognitive dissonance. Complementary is not identical, and even though you may share the same beliefs, your reactions to things will differ. Here are some approaches to maintaining a healthy relationship with your significant other when that happens.

Approach No.1 Journal your mental battle.

Create a chart of what happened before, your feelings, and the consequences (good and bad) for possible responses. As you build your awareness of the dissonance, you’ll feel better about addressing them.

Approach No.2: Process before you progress.

Don’t make a move before you have thought things through. Your response affects you, your significant other, and others attached to the relationship.

Approach No.3 Don’t take it personally unless it’s personal.

Try not to personally attack yourself for feeling how you do. Avoid making decisions in your emotions, and remember your spouse may not be trying to attack you.

Managing Cognitive Dissonance As A Caregiver

I do not remember studying or reading about the cognitive dissonance theory before I had my first child, but I do encourage parents to look into it. With this knowledge, you will be more prepared for the feelings of cognitive dissonance during the developmental phases of your child. When you have the sassy 6-year-old, the rebellious 16-year-old, and even the distant 23-year-old, you will anticipate the dissonance and know what it is. Your child won’t understand until later why you were uncomfortable or juggled with a thing until they come to their knowledge.

Here are some approaches to consider when there is dissonance within your parenting.

Approach No.1 Attach meaning to the confusion.

Why does mean so much to you? How does it relate to your child?

Approach No.2 Weigh the options.

Attach a value to the thoughts you have. Then choose the response with the high value or will yield the most positive reception. When you weigh the options, you are allowing yourself time to regulate.

Approach No.3 Remember to love.

When you’re in an uncomfortable place, remember to love yourself and love your children. Resting in love can help ease discomfort.

You Can Manage This Exceptional Factor.

Cognitive dissonance can impact how you see your relationship. How you see your relationship can affect how you treat those in your relationship. What will you do to help manage? Find the approach that will best fit your situation.

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La'Toya Haley-Haynes, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

La’Toya Haley-Haynes is the founder of Dearest Famly Coaching, LLC. She is a family and relationships coach, author, and speaker. La’Toya is known as the “exceptional relationship coach” because she helps you identify and manage the exceptional factors that are keeping you bound so that you can begin to pursue healing within a healthy relationship. She understands firsthand how imbalance with boundaries, self-care, parenting, parenting a child with exceptional needs, relationships, and even spiritual growth can stop you from truly seeing and living the life you were meant to live. Her mission is to move people from confrontation and confusion to confidence and connections regarding healthy relationships.



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