[This is based off this twitter post]
It’s no secret that relationships can be tough. We all have our moments of frustration, anger, and hurt. But when it comes to conflicts in relationships, it’s important to be aware of the “4 horsemen” - criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These four behaviors can be damaging to any relationship and can lead to a breakdown in communication and ultimately, the end of the relationship. But fear not, there are ways to combat these horsemen and keep your relationship on track.
Criticism is an attack on a person’s character rather than addressing a specific issue. It can be damaging to relationships and make the recipient feel invalidated and unsupported. OTOH, a complaint is voicing concern about specific issues. To avoid/reduce criticism, try addressing the problem directly and using “I” statements to describe your feelings.
Contempt is the most destructive of the four horsemen. It involves a feeling of superiority over the other person and can manifest in eye-rolling or dismissive behavior. To counteract contempt build a culture of appreciation within the relationship; focus on the positive qualities of your team/partner and express gratitude regularly.
Defensiveness arises in response to criticism and only serves to escalate conflict. It is self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood. Instead of getting defensive, take responsibility for any wrongdoing and try to accept/understand your colleague’s perspective and offer an apology if necessary.
Stonewalling is when someone withdraws and stops responding in a conversation. It is often a result of being overwhelmed with emotion and a possible [natural] response to defensiveness. To prevent stonewalling, practice psychological self-soothing and ask for a time-out to calm down down if necessary.
In relationships, it’s important to recognize these destructive behaviors and use the antidotes to prevent further damage. By implementing these strategies, you can improve communication and create a healthier and happier relationship.