Part I: CRITICISM
I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for antidotes when it comes to healing. I’m a solutions kinda gal, what can I say. That’s part of why I love the Enneagram so much, it provides us all with clarity on what’s happening and what to do about it. But today we’re not actually chattin’ about the Enneagram, we’re diving into a different pool of inner and relational work!
What’s that you ask?!
Gottman & The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. AKA the toxic behaviors that break down relationships (and how to heal them…of course!).
Sounds ominous, I know…but stay with me here. I’ll protect you – I promise.
When I began my Gottman training in couples therapy, I developed a quick respect and appreciation for this solution-oriented model that aligned so well with the Enneagram.
If you haven’t heard of the Gottman’s already, you’re going to be really glad to!
Dr. John & Julie Gottman are clinical psychologists whose life work is rooted in researching romantic relationships. Over time, they have developed one of the most sought-after approaches to couples therapy and are continuously enhancing their contributions to this world. Providers around the world are eager to go through their training, it’s a gold standard for couples work!
The Gottman’s discovered four negative behaviors that can occur in romantic relationships that can be incredibly destructive. In fact, their studies have shown that these habits increase the likelihood of divorce (and can predict it to a 93% accuracy). It’s important to note that having these patterns exist in your relationship does not mean that you are doomed or destined for divorce; even happy, healthy couples sometimes experience the Four Horsemen in their relationship. The key difference is that the couples who choose to recognize and reroute these behaviors have the opportunity to co-create a lasting and fulfilling bond.
Over the next four weeks I’m going to be taking you through each of the Four Horsemen. Breaking them down into digestible and actionable steps so you can stop these horses dead in their tracks!
Antidote – Use Gentle Start-up and Ask for Specific Behavior Change
Criticism may include blame, name-calling, and a general character assassination. Simply put, criticism is an attack. It’s not the same as a complaint. Check out the difference below:
Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish!”
Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. We had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
1. I Feel…
Begin statements with “I” instead of “You” to avoid blame.
State how you feel.
Example: “I feel upset…”
2. About What…
Describe the situation and not your partner.
Example: “I feel upset that dirty dishes are left out on the counter.”
3. I Need…
Let your partner know what you want (versus what you don’t want).
If you could wave a magic wand and get what you need, what would things be like? Instead of hoping your partner will guess what you need, or read your mind, tell them specifically what you would like.
Example: “I feel upset that dirty dishes are left out on the counter. I would appreciate it if you would please clean the kitchen each night before going to bed.”
4. Be Polite
Make requests politely, adding phrases such as “please” and “I would appreciate it if…”
5. Give Appreciation
Notice what your partner is doing right and tell them. If your partner has done what you wanted in the past, state that you appreciated it and ask if they would be willing to do it again.
“You’re such an idiot.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“You never clean up after yourself.”
“Why are you so lazy? I’ve told you a thousand times to clean up!”
“This house is a pigsty. You’re such a slob.”
Antidote: “It felt so great to wake up to a clean kitchen last Friday and I would really appreciate it if you would please clean up the kitchen each night before going to bed.”
Next scenario: Your partner complains that you spend too much time on your phone.
Example of Criticism: “You’re always looking at your phone during dinner and never pay attention to me. You’re so rude.”
Antidote: Gentle Start-up: “I feel hurt and excluded when you’re looking at your phone during dinner. I would appreciate it if you would please put your phone away and spend time talking with me. I look forward to talking and connecting with you when we eat together.”
Getting an idea of how criticism can show up and what gentle-start up looks like? Awesome, let’s take it a step further so that we can integrate change!
I’m going to treat these blogs as I do with clients and send you off with this clear action step to consciously practice. Next time we’re going to check-in. I’m all about holding you accountable so you better be implementing this! Or else!
Kidding, of course. No threats happening here. I’m a professional, and I’m Canadian. We’re too nice to do that.
Read this blog together and reflect on the points below:
1. How does criticism show up in our relationship; “How/when do you feel criticized by me?” “If I’m honest, this is how I’ve seen myself criticizing you…”
(We’re looking to hold space without being reactive – bringing in a little bit of humor here could be helpful!)
2. Use hindsight – each of you pick an example that you know has shown up in your relationship and rewrite the script using the steps for a gentle start-up above.
3. Practice saying the new script to one another and see how it feels to receive a gentle start-up.
4. What do you notice? How does it feel to receive it in this way?
5. USE THIS SCRIPT. Pull it out when you need it (Yes, seriously. Being intentional can be difficult in the beginning, I invite you to be SO committed to trying this that it feels awkward or funny to whip the script out!)
Alright my friends, we faced the first scary horsemen. I’m proud of us.
Keep your eyes peeled for part 2!
*Source for script: The Gottman Institute
Amanda helps teens, individuals, and couples create secure relationships within themselves and with each other. Her favorite (and most impactful!) tool to use is the Enneagram, which deepens awareness, understanding, and compassion so that we all can continue to foster meaningful connections in our day to day lives, moment by moment.
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