How do you communicate?
Often we are not well aware of how and what we communicate to each other within a relationship. In addition to words, for example, body language, pitch of your voice and underlying energy are also aspects that consciously or unconsciously play a role in communication. Someone can tell a sad story very energetically and cheerfully while someone else can tell a happy story very sad and monotonous. People then say much more than just the spoken words. The way something is said is often just as important as the content of the story. Awareness of how you tell things is an important step to better understand yourself and the other person.
Does your body language correspond to what you want to say?
Yet words do have creative power. What you choose to say to the other person or to yourself is essential. Positive affirmations are beautiful examples of words that can help you go into a certain direction. Do you get up every morning and then tell yourself that you are going to get the best out of yourself? Or do you wake up in the morning and are you questioning how you “survive” the day? The story and the way you tell the story both have influence on how you experience your world.
Within a relationship it is therefore important to look at how and what you communicate. Often it is interesting to look at the relationships in your life that are difficult. You know, that one person that you prefer to avoid. Or maybe it is a loved one or a child with whom you experience struggles in certain situations. I’m guessing everyone has one or more of these relationships. So don’t be ashamed :-)!
Julie Sharon-Wagschal, relationship therapist, psychologist and certified Gotmann therapist and trainer (see www.gottman.com for more information about the Gottman theory and approach), indicates that in these difficult relationships we can pay attention to the following 4 communication styles, also called the “four horsemen of apocalypse”. These are:
This has to do with criticizing someone by criticizing the person. For example: you never think of me and are always selfishly engaged with yourself. It would be better to communicate about how you feel about a certain subject and what you need to understand the other person. For example: If you do not call me, I feel left alone.
According to the Gotmann theory, the presence of this communication style within a relationship is the greatest predictor of divorces. The effect of disdain is that the other person feels belittled because the self-esteem is reduced. For example: I have explained so many times how you can do the laundry, how stupid can you be? You must avoid this form of communication at all times!
This usually happens in response to the first two communication styles, criticism and contempt. You then no longer take responsibility for your own behavior and put the blame back on the other person. For example: I forgot to pick up the bread because you ask too much of me.
In this case communication is no longer possible. You are overwhelmed, your heart rate goes up, you can’t speak and therefore you can not respond. You pull back and don’t react at all, by for example walking away or being obsessively busy with something else.
Next time when you feel that the conversation with your partner, child, mother, friend, etc. is taking your energy, try to see if you recognize 1 of the 4 horsemen and see what effect it has on you and the other person in the realtionship. Try, for example, to pay attention to your body language and see if you can choose other words to make your message clear.
For more information about relationship therapy and what it can mean for you, I refer you to the website of Julie Sharon-Wagschal, www.balanceyou.net. For an informal lifecoaching conversation with me, for example about career questions, finding meaning, but also investigating your choices within relationships you can mail me at email@example.com.
“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”
– Albert Einstein