Friday, July 17, 2009

Gottman's Four Horseman of the Apocalypse

John Gottman, a psychologist and a researcher, is able to predict within three minutes which relationships will survive over the years and which will not, with about 94% accuracy. He identified four characteristics that are lethal to commitment and one of those characteristics is the presence of what he calls the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the couple's communication style. The four horsemen are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling 1. Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong. "You never" and "You always" signal someone is using this tactic. Instead of addressing the issue, the partner is blamed for lacking in some way. An example is saying "You never take out the trash. You always expect me to do all the work." The correction is to address the issue that concerns you and not blame the person: "Could you find a way to remember to take out the trash? It annoys me when you forget and I have to rush to get it out before I leave for work." 2. Contempt: Communicating in a way that you look down on your spouse, expressing distain. The use of sarcasm and ridicule indicates contempt is in play. Contempt must be eliminated and replaced with respect. An example is as follows: "I've lost all respect for you. You are a poor excuse for a human being." 3. Defensiveness: Seeing yourself as the victim, warding off a perceived attack from your partner, you offer excuses and explanations. When you constantly deflect issues brought up by your partner, you are ignoring his or her concerns. "I meant to get the materials you needed but I ran out of time. You wouldn't believe my day. You don't appreciate how busy I am." Learning to listen and accept your partner's point of view is necessary to repair the relationship stressed by defensiveness. 4. Stonewalling: When you stonewall, you avoid conflict by shutting down, refusing to talk or engage with your partner, either because you don't know your own feelings or because you are afraid of direct discussion. Staring at the television when your spouse is bringing up an issue of concern or walking out of the room, refusing to talk are examples of stonewalling. Learning to problem solve together is the repair for this horseman.

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