Do you deflect, stonewall, or become defensive when your partner shares pain, criticism, or constructive feedback? If you do, then you are not “letting it land,” and it’s hurting your relationship.
“Let It land” is one of improvisational theater’s basic guidelines. When improvising, make sure that whatever your partner offers you on stage, you “let it land”—let whatever they say enter your psyche and reverberate in your body before responding.
In couples therapy, this ability is considered one of the best predictors of martial happiness and is called “the ability to accept influence.” Accepting influence is the ability to let your partner’s input affect your position and change your behaviors accordingly. Such acceptance encourages your partner to bid and share more of themselves in the relationship.
In short, letting it land (accepting influence) is a key skill in the improvisational nature of intimate relationships.
How does “let it land” feel?
Letting things land is primarily a somatic experience. It resembles the concept of felt sense from the practice of focusing. Psychotherapist Terry Real calls this the “whoosh” you immediately feel after your partner says something emotionally loaded. You might notice actual sensations like heat waves, tingling, or even cramps, together with strong emotional reactions.
Why do we avoid letting things land?
If the ability to let things land is so necessary, then why do we usually block our partner’s offers?
- Because it burns. If you let your partner’s feedback or pain in, you will face your imperfections and shadow parts. This does not always feel nice, to say the least.
- Because it might make you feel like a bad person. Letting it land may bring on feelings of sadness, regret, shame, pain, humiliation, and incompetence.
- Because you fear being flooded. When you open your heart to strong emotions, you might experience emotional flooding,
- Because letting things land can equate to “losing” to your partner. For some people, accepting influence is interpreted as being controlled or even enslaved to their partner.
So why should we let it land?
If you dare to start accepting influence and let things land, then several positive effects might occur:
- You will feel alive. You will feel your partner and be touched
- You will grow. Accepting your partner’s influence usually leads to uncovering the blind spots that you cannot see. Seeing your shortcomings and taking responsibility for them means that you can start choosing to behave differently.
- Your relationship will become more exciting. When partners let it land, the dynamic becomes more collaborative, surprising, honest, direct, and bold.
How do you let it land?
Letting it land might not be easy in the beginning, but with practice you can develop the courage, stamina, and grounded responding that will enable you to accept influence from your partner.
- Remind yourself that you are in this relationship because you want to grow. Only in intimate relationships do our blind spots get noticed by our partners.
- Share this article with your partner so you will have common language.
- Open your body. When it gets hot and your partner is giving you the ‘“gift” of constructive feedback, open your body. Open your palms, take a deep breath, inhale their feelings or thoughts.
- Hold on to yourself. Especially as the tension rises in your body.
- Welcome your defense mechanisms. Your defenses will arrive on the first sign of physical distress. Let the resulting thoughts or reactions run through your mind. Just don’t act them out verbally or behaviorally.
- Let the sensations pass through you. After a few seconds, the “whoosh” will pass and you will be able to breathe easier.
- Address what was just said. You can let your partner know that you thank them for sharing, that what they said was not easy to hear, that you want to think about their words more. Or you can just smile and show them that you let it in.
- Ask for a time out if you are completely flooded. Remind your partner that you are trying to stay close and open, and perhaps they need to pause so you can digest what they said.
- Not everything they say is true. After the physical sensations will pass, you can calmly reflect on the truth and relevance of your partner’s words. But as they are talking, being present is the priority.
Letting things land requires a lot of emotional and physical practice. It isn’t easy to keep opening yourself up to constructive feedback or negative feelings. Accepting influence does become easier with time, though, and can quickly become the norm in your intimate relationship.
If this does become the new norm in your relationship, then your partner is going to start accepting influence too. Letting it land shows your desire to be open and vulnerable in your relationships, which translates into a feeling of vitality and hope in your life.
Let it land so you can fly higher in your relationships.
Besser, M., Roberts, I., Walsh, M., Wengert, J., & Kantrowitz, D. (2013). The upright citizens brigade comedy improvisation manual. NY, NY: Comedy Council of Nicea.
Gendlin, E. T. (1982). Focusing. New York, NY: Bantam.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2007). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. London, UK: Orion.
Hines, W. (2016). How to be the greatest improviser on earth. New York, NY: Pretty Great Publishing.
Real, T. (2002). How Can I Get Through to You?: Reconnecting Men and Women. New York, NY: Fireside.
Previously Published on Psychology Today