Pfffft! C’mon now, you should know me better than that at this point!
Four Horsemen Recap
Okay, so we’ve covered criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. Phew! They’re intense (although rest assured that couples counseling can absolutely help, especially Gottman Method Couples Therapy).
The tendency seems to be that they start during conflict. That’s initially, anyway. Then what happens is that they slowly, slowly, slowly start to bleed over into other interactions. You might approach a neutral topic (i.e. groceries) with an edge to your voice because you’re so fed up with not feeling heard on a consistent basis.
You see what I mean?
It’s that whole things-don’t-get-released-or-resolved-so-it-keeps-adding-up phenomenon that I’m pretty sure most of us know all too well. Some of us, anyway. Some folks just put it all out there on a consistent basis (which can lend itself to other types of problems, but not generally this one).
SO, my point is this. The horsemen typically start within conflict and then communication slowly devolves to lots of horsemen during non-conflict. It’s really tiring and frustrating. People tend to feel exhausted and confused about when and why it happens.
The beauty in all of this is that there are antidotes! Yyaayyy!!
Show Me The Antidotes!!
Short version is this:
criticism -> gentle startup
defensiveness -> take responsibility
stonewalling -> self-soothe
contempt -> state your own feelings and needs
Super easy, right? #winkyface
Simple, yes. Easy? Meh, maybe. Remember that whole you know what to do, but do you do it thing? Same concept here. It's simple, but do you do it (first of all), and it's difficult to implement, which is why we're going into details below!
From Criticism to Gentle Startup
With criticism, we want a gentle startup in its place. And with gentle startup, we ask that you state your feeling, the situation, and then a need. And in more detail, it should go like this.