Destructive Communication Patterns

Destructive Communication Patterns - Cheryl Woolstone Counselling Blog

Which relationships will survive?

Which will falter, fail or self-destruct? We know the answer!

Dr. John Gottman makes the bold statement that he can predict with 95% accuracy whether couples will stay together or not.

His predictions are partly based on the presence of four destructive communication patterns: contempt, criticism, stone-walling and defensiveness.

Let me break this down for you:

1. Contempt

  • The most destructive form of communication
  • When criticism fails to work, and it always does, couples often resort to insults, sarcasm and name-calling
  • There is an air or arrogance and superiority in the contemptuous person and an underlying hostility in the relationship

Challenges: When do you fall into the trap of contempt? How is it triggered? What payoff do you get when you are contemptuous?

2. Criticism

  • Criticism is a personality attack
  • Different from a complaint which focuses on a specific behaviour
  • Aimed at the character of a person and is extremely hurtful

Challenges: How do you experience yourself when you are critical? What payoff do you get when you are critical? What are the losses?

3. Stone-Walling

  • Shutting down and not responding to your partner
  • Argument is so overwhelming and unpleasant that the stonewaller will say or do anything to end the argument
  • The stone-waller may be physiologically “flooded” or fearful
  • It is important┬áto walk away when the intensity is too high and the situation may escalate beyond the point of repair

Challenges: What do you do when you are stonewalling your partner? How do you respond when your partner is stone-walling you? What message are you sending when you stone-wall?

4. Defensiveness

  • Inability to take responsibility for your contribution to the problem
  • Excuses are made and blame is assigned to the other person
  • Lack of self-awareness and closed to self-reflection
  • Play one-up, whine, repeat yourself

Challenges: What forms of defensiveness do you recognize within yourself? What do you believe it would mean if you took some responsibility for your contribution to the problem?

I highly recommend that you read Dr. Gottman’s book, The Relationship Cure, if you are serious about turning these patterns around.

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011 at 8:00 AM and is filed under IMAGO and Relationships. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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