Yesterday I introduced you to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the saboteurs of any good relationship.  They are Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.

If left to run rampant, they can ruin your marriage.

Today I promised you the antidote for Criticism.

According to The Gottman Institute, the solution for criticism is expressing yourself in a way that does not find fault with the other person.  It is accomplished by using a gentle startup. 

To soften our delivery  (an ACTION) two things need to happen:

1. We have to create a new FEELING.  We can’t soften our delivery when we come from a place of feeling critical or judgmental.

2.  We have to change our THOUGHT about our partner.  It is our thought that gives rise to the feeling. 

Thoughts create (–>)  feelings which fuel (–>) Action/Inaction.

One of my favorite ways to look at the results I am getting in my life is to use this simple Model I learned at The Life Coach School.  The Think Feel Act Model simply organizes the pieces so you can look at them:

Circumstance (C)–>Thought(T)–>Feeling(F)–>Action(A)–> Result(R).

Looking at the antidote to Criticism, lets use a specific example from my own relationship.

We start with a specific Circumstance (C).  The Circumstance is simply the facts. EVERYONE would agree on the Circumstance. In my case the facts are:

  • Rich says, “My favorite way to relax is watching movies.”
  • Rich has  hundreds of movies.
  • Rich watched  some TV everyday for the past 14 days.
  • Growing up Rich’s family had a TV in every room of the house except the bathrooms.

I have THOUGHTS about these facts. My thoughts are very different than Rich’s thoughts.  My thoughts are not facts. They are simply  my assessments and they are completely optional.

Thought (T):  TV is a waste of time.

What I think, creates a FEELING.  This particular thought makes me feel critical.

Feeling (F): Critical

When I feel critical, I criticize.  Or if I am trying to do the “right thing”, I keep it to myself.  If I try to resist the feeling of critical without really acknowledging the thought creating it, I might force a new feeling.  But forcing a new feeling, the feeling of critical eventually topples out in self righteous statements or condescending comments.  Just “acting nice” doesn’t cut it.

Action: Criticize, internalize and then make passive aggressive comments.

When I act this way, the result is, I waste my time.  Criticizing Rich is not productive and does not serve me or him. 

Result (R): I waste my time.

We have unearthed an Unintentional Model.  It shows us how I am getting the results in my life.  It is this:

C: Rich watches TV

T: TV is a waste of time

F: critical

A: criticize, internalize and make passive aggressive comments

R: I waste my time

This model shows us the cause of my Result line.  We can see it is my Thoughts that cause the Results. The Circumstances are not to blame for the Results. (But we like to think they are.)

The Result of me wasting my time is not caused by Rich watching TV. It is caused by my THOUGHTS about TV.  I know this is true, because Rich could have married someone else who LOVES TV and so this problem no longer exists.

If I want to change my Result to “I appreciate Rich and myself, ” I need to get rid of the criticism.  I ask myself, what would I be doing if I appreciated  Rich?

My Actions might be:

  • I let Rich enjoy TV while I spend time doing what I enjoy.
  • I share my thoughts and feelings in a non judgmental way (soften startup). 
  • I look for ways that TV is not a problem.
  • I  make requests without demanding (soften startup).
  • I turn toward by watching a show with Rich because I want to.

To create an Intentional Model, I ask myself some questions. 

What would I have to feel to show up that way?

Accepting. Loving.

What thoughts would I have to think to create feelings of Acceptance?  Here are some I might try on:

If Rich was married to Sally who loves TV this would not be a problem.

‚ÄčThis is only a problem because I don’t prefer it.

Rich’s brain works different than mine and he needs stimulation while I need quiet.

I want to honor Rich and myself.

Using this information we can create a new model using ONE FEELING and ONE THOUGHT:

C: SAME (we never change the Circumstance)

T: Rich’s brain works different than mine and he needs stimulation while I need quiet.

F: Accepting

A:  I share in a non-demanding way that honors our differences; I “let” Rich watch TV and I do things I enjoy; I watch a show with Rich because I want to.

R: I appreciate Rich and me.  

When we think about ourselves and our partner in a nonjudgmental way, we can make bids to connect without criticizing.  We can create an open posture when we bring up a circumstance, soften startup and value our partner and our-self.