(John Gottman has been a researcher in the field of couple's communitation for decades. He indentifies what he calls the FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE when it comes to damaging communcation styles):
I have added some alternatives to this communication style which can help to tame each of these wild horses:
1. Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making ourselves right and them wrong:
- "You were wrong, admit it!"
- "I don't like your jokes, you're not funny"
- "You think you're so clever!"
Try this instead: Concentrate on your personal experience. "I felt hurt when..." Removing the criticism allows you to attend to your emotions and feelings, not concentrate on making the other person wrong. (Which never works anyway).
2. Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her:
- Insults and name-calling: “bitch, bastard, wimp, fat, stupid, ugly, slob, lazy…”
- Hostile humor, sarcasm or mockery
- Body language & tone of voice: sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip
3. Defensiveness: Seeing self as the victim, warding off a perceived attack:
Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing
Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own, ignoring what your partner said
- Disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who …” “I did this because you did that…”
- Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing
- Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying
- Whining "It's not fair."
Try this instead: Take a breath before reacting. There is a world of difference between reacting and responding. Consider your words carefully and what damage they will do before using them. When it comes to relationships it is NOT easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
4. Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness:
- Stony silence
- Monosyllabic mutterings
- Changing the subject
- Removing yourself physically
- Silent Treatment
Try this instead: Ask for time away if you need it but check in so that it is not considered an abandonment when you do it. "I need a little time by myself right now, but I think we need to talk when I've gathered my thoughts." This is vastly different than using silence as a weapon.
Learn to make specific complaints & requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I want Z)
- Conscious communication: Speaking the unarguable truth & listening generously
- Validate your partner (let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling, see through their eyes)
- Shift to appreciation (5 times as much positive feeling & interaction as negative is a key metric as a predictor of success in relationships)
- Claim responsibility: “Does my partner have a point?" "What can I learn from this?” & “What can I do about it?”
- Re-write your inner script (replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimization with thoughts of appreciation, responsibility that are soothing & validating)
- Practice getting undefended (allowing your partner’s utterances to be what they really are: just thoughts) and let go of the stories that you are making up.