Yesterday I introduced you to The Four
Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the saboteurs of any good relationship. They are Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness
If left to run rampant, they can ruin
Today I promised you the antidote for
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.
We have to change our THOUGHT about our partner. It is our thought that gives rise to the
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:
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
- Rich has hundreds
- 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.
(T): TV is a waste of time.
What I think, creates a FEELING. This particular thought makes me feel
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.
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.
(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:
T: TV is
a waste of time
criticize, internalize and make passive aggressive comments
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
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
- 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.
would I have to feel to show up that way?
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.
This is only a problem because I don’t
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:
(we never change the Circumstance)
Rich’s brain works different than mine and he needs stimulation while I need
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.
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.