Updated: Nov 13, 2019
There are four types of communication that escalate the tension when you're talking with your partner.
They are: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. (created by John Gottman, PhD)
We've learned some interesting things about avoiding criticism recently, which I thought I'd post for you.
Criticism: What is it?
Criticism is using any kind of language that indicates blame. Typically, using the word 'you' is the culprit.
- "I can't believe you didn't record American Idol for me last night!"
- "You should have called ahead of time for reservations."
But criticism can also just be touted as negativity, without actually saying the word 'you'. The blame is alive and well, though. Take a look...
- "This is the third day in a row I had to clean the cat litter!" (If it's normally your job to do the cat box, the 'you' is implied, but clearly heard by the listener.)
- "We should have called for reservations at this restaurant! I'm so pissed right now!" (This person is being defensive off the bat, but it's clear he's hunting for blame, and that person is 'you'.)
So how do you stop criticism in it's tracks?
Rule 1: Talk About What You Want, Not What You Don't Want or Didn't Get. This strategy takes all the negativity and complaining/blame off the table. "I really want the cat litter to be cleaned everyday, okay?" or "I was hoping we could have walked right into the restaurant and sat down at a table." Notice that it's still okay to be angry. You're just avoiding criticism, by removing blame, which is the small component of anger that escalates the tension.
Rule 2: Talk About Yourself, Not About The Other Person. By staying inside your body, and inside your experience, you avoid any kind of attack. "I feel so tired right now, and I was really hoping that the household chores would be finished" or "I've been looking forward to eating at this restaurant all day and am now worried we won't be able to find another good spot." I'm staying inside my experience, not referencing my partner at all.
These are two simple things that we teach couples in our clinic, and in our workshops.
Did you know that... gay guys typically have one of four challenges to their relationships. What's yours? Figure out what your pattern is, and the solution by answering some important questions on this quiz: HERE