Communication is the most important thing in any relationship in our lives, but when it comes to our closest relationships it really is everything. The tone of our communication, both verbal and non-verbal, sets the mood and the tone for our lives and the lives of those around us. Particularly in our homes, the tone of your communication colours the atmosphere and leaves a lasting imprint for you and your family.
Loving and respectful communication means a loving and respectful environment, bringing peace and calm to the home and all who live there.
Dr John Gottman is an American psychologist, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, who has worked for over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability. He has devised a theory that effectively predicts the chances of a couple separating or divorcing. The theory is based on how couples communicate with one another. Dr Gottman names four negative communication types that are precursors to separation and divorce. He has named them the Four Horsemen, after the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
In this analogy, criticism is the first horseman. It’s never helpful to criticise your partner’s character. There may be times where it’s necessary to complain about something, but it’s important to do this without turning it into a personal attack on the other person.
Contempt is the second horseman, and it’s a sneaky one. It’s meaner than criticism as it implies that you are morally superior to your partner and you are critiquing them from your superior position. This can manifest as ridicule, mockery or sarcastic comments.
The third horseman is defensiveness, which is often a response to criticism, whether real or perceived. Defensiveness may look like finding excuses and blaming others which does not help to build a healthy communication style.
The fourth horseman is stonewalling, which can be a response to contempt, again this may be real or perceived. Stonewalling is when you shut down and check out of communicating with your partner and/or other family members.
All of these communication styles can be extremely damaging to those on the receiving end. It becomes impossible to build trust and true intimacy in an atmosphere that is characterised by criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. All of these communication styles are designed to protect yourself and prevent anyone from becoming close to you. It’s also a way of maintaining power and control and ensuring that you remain in the driver’s seat in your relationship- you have a way of shutting down your partner or family so that you are always in the right.
If you’d like to know more about communicating in a respectful way, here are some guidelines that may be helpful:
These are some concrete examples of how to replace the Four Horsemen style of communicating with those who are the closest to you. To embrace these new ways of being with others will make a huge difference to your own sense of self, as well as to how others perceive you. And it will contribute to creating a loving and happy home environment- something that is good for ourselves and our loved ones.
If this article is interesting to you, you may wish to learn more about what makes Heavy M.E.T.A.L. a unique program. We go beyond teaching the basics of behavioural change and we offer two further phases for participants who are wanting to build on the foundation created in Phase 1. Phase 2 focuses on how to create positive interactions and is aimed at improving relationships with your loved ones. Phase 3, the Grounded and Balanced (G.A.B.) Program, is all about creating and maintaining emotional balance so you can cope with whatever comes your way. All of this is based on learning new and better communication skills- it’s the key to a happy and peaceful life, both for you and those around you. Click on the link if you’d like to know more: