This month’s topic is on communication skills. Communication is one of those generic terms that can be misinterpreted by both speaker and listener. There are several pitfalls that people can fall into when trying to express their thoughts, feelings and intentions. We’ll discuss several of these in this newsletter.
John Gottmann, a brilliant mathematician and psychologist has identified several toxic interactions where people can be stuck. He calls them the ‘Four Horsemen of the Marital Apocalypse’. Please note that these interactions are toxic for ALL relationships.
- Contempt: Contempt is experienced as disdain and disrespect. Contempt can be shown by both the speaker and listener. It can show through words, actions, feelings, facial expressions and body language. An example of contempt would be if either person said, “You aren’t smart enough to know what you’re talking about.”
- Criticism: Criticism is experienced by feeling condemned and being judged by unreasonably strict standards placed on you by someone else. It feels belittling and devaluing. An example of criticism is “I work out at least four times a week to keep my weight down. What happened to your plan?”
- Defensiveness: When someone is defensive they have the inability to hear and respect what the other person is saying. They have a tendency to keep score, attack and ‘one-up’ the other person. An example of someone being defended could sound like, “you’re the one that never follows through with your promises. I always do what I say I’m going to do.”
- Stonewalling: When someone stonewalls, they can be uncooperative, evasive, create obstacles and be unemotional and uncommunicative. An example of stonewalling would be one person taking a risk to be vulnerable and share their thoughts and feelings and the other person not speaking and being impassive.
These types of interactions can become rigid and inflexible patterns in relationships. They can be more prevalent in your most intimate relationships. We typically have greater constraint with casual friends, acquaintances and business associates.
If you can practice being aware of these four reactions it can be beneficial and healing for your relationships.
It helps to keep in perspective that no one is better than anyone else. Arrogance is thinking you are smarter, better looking and more successful than others. Humility is realizing that we are all human and have strengths and weaknesses. It is recognizing the inherent value and worth we all possess.