“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:6 (NASB)
A primary element of every good relationship is healthy communication. Better communication leads to better relationships. That’s why it’s imperative we avoid the four main conversation killers: Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling, and Contempt. Drs. John and Julie Gottman call these negative responses The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and say these statistically predict the end of relationships.
The quicker we recognize these destructive habits and the harder we work to eliminate them from our conversations, the more enjoyable and successful our relationships will be.
Criticism is a negative verbal response we often use when we disagree, disapprove, object, or judge another person’s thoughts or actions. We may have legitimate points, but it’s extremely important we learn to express our points in love –– not criticism.
Paul reminds us how we are to communicate truth in love, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,”Ephesians 4:15 (NASB).
When approaching a difficult conversation or presenting an opposing position, we must make every effort to express our views and feelings without criticism of the other person’s point of view.
Defensiveness is a verbal reaction we often employ when someone disagrees, disapproves, objects, or judges us. This is generally our number one go to in response to criticism. Defensiveness immediately throws a conversation into a negative, repetitive pattern. One person defends their position and the other person then responds with a defense of their own. This dysfunctional dance can cause us to get stuck in destructive and exhausting patterns of communication. The best way to reverse this pattern is to catch yourself when you are tempted to defend, and ask yourself, “Is there anything that I am being criticized for that has merit?”
If we look for opportunities to take ownership and simply respond by thanking the other person for their honest opinion, we will stop this toxic habit. A kind response from us will encourage a criticizer to reconsider their remarks and by taking this courageous step, we will be more likely open to recognizing areas within our lives that need our special attention.
“…But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
James 1:19b (NASB)
Contempt is a non-verbal or verbal expression of disgust or dislike, and Stonewalling is simply a refusal to communicate. These two conversation killers shut communication down completely and allow little or no room for repair. It’s imperative we make every effort to replace contempt and stonewalling with a compassionate approach to others and embrace a willingness to communicate and listen with patience and understanding.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”Ephesians 4:31-32
Isn’t it time you took an objective inventory of your communication skills? Could it be that Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling, and Contempt are stumbling blocks for you?
What are you communicating in your relationships?
Article, The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling,by: Ellie Lisitsa, 4-23-13, https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/, accessed 7-23-18.