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Dr. John Gottman uses the metaphor of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.
- Criticism – When we criticize we tend to attack our partner and put them down. Learn how to communicate a complaint in a more helpful way so it can be constructive.
- Defensiveness – When we feel accused of something we tend to want to justify or explain our behaviour but often our need to defend ourselves stops us listening and our partner can feel ignored.
- Stonewalling – When we stonewall we try to avoid conflict but our evasive manoeuvres such as tuning out, turning away, getting busy or avoiding dealing with an issue can escalate things and we end up with more conflict and misunderstandings.
- Contempt – When we communicate from this state, we tend to be mean; treating others with disrespect by using sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling or body language such as eye-rolling. Our partner usually feels despised and worthless so contempt is toxic to relationships and needs to be eliminated.