Communication is extremely important in every human interaction. Sometimes the tone of voice or the choice of words we choose when interacting with others, can convey a different meaning from the message we are trying to get across. In the most unfortunate situations, miscommunication can create serious interpersonal issues. This is particularly true in cases when we share close quarters with a significant other. Some things that the other person does or says may annoy us, but how can we let them know without making him/her feel like they are under attack? How can we avoid communication patterns that could lead to a terminally unhappy relationship or to a break up?
Gotham, PhD identified four interactions that, according to research, are predictive of problems in the relationship. He named these patterns "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."
When you use statements like "you always" "you never" or blurt condescending things such as "what is wrong with you?" you make the other person feel under attack. Better to replace criticism with "I" statements, such as "I am annoyed because you didn't fill up the gas tank in the car" instead of " You didn't fill up the gas tank. I can't count on you for anything"
Defensiveness is an attempt to protect and defend yourself or to ward off a perceived attack. Sometimes it is done with a counterattack e.g. "me? What about you?'
Defensiveness is bad because the partner who uses defensiveness is disowning his behavior and not accepting responsibility. Defensiveness then leads to more arguing and more criticism.
The listener withdraws from the interaction while staying in the room. Examples of stonewalling are: looking to the other side, not maintaining eye contact, crossing one's arms. The person who is stonewalling is thinking upsetting thoughts such as "I can't believe she said that", whereas the person being stonewalled often finds it upsetting to be ignored. The alternative to stonewalling is to learn to calm yourself and try to re-engage in the conversation.
This is the worst of the horsemen of the apocalypse and something to avoid. It encompasses making sarcastic remarks, laughing at the other person, sneering and so on. When we use contempt we disrespect the person and we basically convey the message that we are better than our partner.
To fight contempt, couples have to create a culture of appreciation . Catch your partner doing something you like and show your appreciation
It is important that couples avoid the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse of the Relationships in order to achieve a healthier, happier and more fulfilling relationship.