How to Halt the Four Horseman of Toxic Communication – Part One
Toxic Communication Destroys Relationships
The Gottman Institute talks about Four Horsemen, which indicate that a relationship is starting to fail. It’s worth being aware of these Four Horsemen and knows how to counteract them as they creep into your relationship.
Once they get a hold, then frustration, anger and resentment follow them. The earlier that they are addressed, the easier the transition back to a satisfying relationship.
The Four Horsemen are particularly active in the current lockdown/restricted circumstances where we are in close proximity to each other over extended periods.
We will be doing four separate posts, each of them covering one of the horsemen.
The First Horseman is CRITICISM
It’s important here that when we talk about criticism that we differentiate between a complaint and criticism.
A complaint targets behaviour, but criticism is an attack launched at who the person is. In other words, the person’s character. Criticism is attacking because we often use the word “you”, which has the effect of blaming the other person for the situation.
When a person feels they are under attack, there is an opportunity for them to act defensively, and the situation will escalate emotionally.
To stop criticism in its tracks, complain without directing blame. Avoid saying “you,” which is an attack on the person you’re talking to, and instead, talk about your feelings using “I” statements and express what you need in a positive manner.
Using “I” statements holds what I’m saying to myself, and I am taking responsibility for how I feel. Using “you” statements throws what you’re saying at the other person in an attacking manner.
When formulating what you’re going to say keep two things in mind;
– What do I feel?
– What do I need?
For Example Criticism: “You always talk about yourself. Why are you always so selfish?”
Remedy: “I’m feeling left out of our talk tonight, and I need to vent. Can we please talk about my day?” Notice the flow “I feel,” leads into “I need,” and then politely asks to meet that need.
There’s no blame or criticism, and the discussion is less likely to escalate into an argument. Communication is the backbone of any relationship.