Communication is the basis of any relationship, and it can determine whether this relationship will last as well as its nature – friendship or love. There are some critical aspects of communication between people that can affect how individuals feel about each other. If not addressed, some problems can cause the relationship to end. This essay will discuss destructive relationship patterns and some of the most crucial skills for effective communication that might potentially break these negative loops.
John Gottman distinguishes four destructive relationship patterns which predict divorce or a breakup. These are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Each model affects communication and dictates the dynamics of interpersonal interactions. Namely, criticism is dangerous in relationships because it escalates the conflict. Partners should not hide their feelings when they do not feel comfortable about each other’s behavior, but when one partner presents their complaint as an attack, the other person automatically becomes defensive. As a result, the conflict gets destructive rather than constructive.
The second predictor of the relationship’s end is contempt, and it is the most dangerous negative pattern since it destroys mutual respect. Contempt emerges when one person in a couple feels superior to the other. It can be manifested in mocking, resentment, or the diminishing of the partner’s achievements. Surprisingly, Gottman notes that contempt can erode a person’s nervous system, which makes it even more harmful.
The third predictor of divorce is defensiveness, which often leads to partners pushing the blame back and forth between each other. Defensiveness emerges when a person refuses to take responsibility for the part of the problem. Every conflict requires the involvement of two sides, and defensiveness is a major obstacle for conflict resolution because it is the primary barrier to constructive discussion.
Finally, the fourth negative pattern in the relationship is stonewalling, which might seem the least damaging, yet it is also quite dangerous. Stonewalling is the avoidance of conflict and refusal to participate in a conversation. Gottman mentions in the video that men tend to use this pattern more often than women because they do not want to provoke conflict. Unfortunately, such a reaction leads to the opposite result since communication does not take place at all, and the conflict becomes worse.
I have had all of these patterns show up in my past relationships, which goes to prove that they are rather accurate predictors of the relationship’s end. Reflecting on these experiences, I can admit that my biggest problem was defensiveness. I felt attacked every time the person approached me with a complaint and did not try to understand the root cause of the problem. However, I sometimes tried to avoid conflict through stonewalling, but it always made the other person angrier. Moreover, I was in a relationship where my partner demonstrated contempt, which I did not tolerate. Learning more about Gottman’s principles and understanding the nature of the four negative relationship patterns will help me build strong partnerships in the future.
Trust, self-disclosure, feedback, and conflict resolution skills are essential for building a healthy relationship with the other individual. All these aspects are crucial for a thriving partnership since they enable a person to not only communicate one’s own needs but also recognize the needs of their partner. Whereas trust and self-disclosure help people build a stronger bond and feel comfortable around each other, feedback and conflict resolution skills allow cultivating a positive success-oriented environment in which both partners are guaranteed to be respected and heard. If the relationship lacks one of these aspects, there are fewer chances for people to understand each other and stay together for a long time.
There are several important lessons that I learned from the videos about communication and building trust in the relationship. It was surprising to realize that trust in the couple emerges from the small moments of bonding. Likewise, turning away in those moments destroys trust, making people more indifferent towards each other. This knowledge will undoubtedly help me become more attentive and thoughtful in the attitude of my future partner.
When it comes to communication, my most significant strength is the ability to express my needs or dissatisfaction to the other person without making them feel bad about themselves or getting defensive. I can find the right way to approach the other person, which helps me tremendously in building not only personal but also professional relationships. My weakness is being defensive in conflicts and not willing to admit my mistakes. I think that the information that I learned from the videos will help me become more responsive to criticism and make me a better listener. Now that I know about the essence of this negative pattern, I can successfully combat it. Also, I will try to pay more attention to small moments in communication to connect with the other person on a deeper level. Finally, I will apply conflict resolution skills from the book to become a more effective communicator.