Coercion Is Not Always Recognizable

Coercion isn’t always recognizable.

The other night my wife was viewing the first ten minutes of a movie on TV. She was so enthralled with it that she pressed the “record” button on the DVR and then stopped viewing the program. She wanted to share the movie with me and said that she was saving it until a time when we could watch it together.

When that time came around, her enthusiasm pitched even higher. However, as she turned on the recording and the synopsis of the movie aired, I quickly realized that I had no interest in the show. My wife was so surprised and disappointed that she reiterated her desire to share it and the fact that she had saved the viewing for both of us. She strongly assured me, even insisted, that I would enjoy the movie based on the first ten minutes she saw of it. I protested that I did not want to take my time to watch that particular movie. The plot did not interest me. Silence! I went my way; she went her way.

Later, we came together for clarity, which is our usual approach. (I have found that aiming for clarity is much more advantageous than attempting to convince.) She felt justified in her position. I asked, “Isn’t this being coercive—insisting that I view a film in which I have no interest?”

The moment she heard the word, “coercive,” I saw the surprise on her face. I had uttered the big “C” word. She said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was being coercive. I didn’t recognize it as such, but now I do. You are right.”

Even sharing, if not done with consideration, can be coercive. But notice the approach: Asking a reflective question led to clarification.