Want to destroy your relationships? Dr. John Gottman identified four daggers (he calls them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) that, when frequently used, are sure-fire ways to disintegrate connection in a relationship. Defensiveness, criticism, contempt and stonewalling are all you need to do. For me, each one comes easily. I don’t actually even need to think about them, they just pop right out of my mouth when I am angry, hurt or tired.
How do you avoid using the four daggers? The answer is simple but not easy. Awareness is your first action. Notice what you are thinking and feeling. Next, say the word STOP to keep from sending out a dagger. Now process what you are feeling and thinking by identifying your emotion and the corresponding thoughts. The last piece, choose a productive response which usually involves being vulnerable about how you are feeling.
Example: My husband often leaves dishes on the counter next to the sink. I wonder how they are going to get into the dishwasher all by themselves. It irritates me. I could yell at him and tell him he’s a bleeping idiot (adeptly using two of the four daggers: criticism and contempt). Or,
1) I could notice that I’m thinking he’s stupid and feeling angry.
2) Say STOP before I let daggers fly out of my mouth.
3) Ask myself what’s going on that I’m so angry. I’m angry because it seems at times I’m the only one who puts dishes into the dishwasher. I have asked others to do the same but they don’t. That frustrates me. It seems that I am not appreciated and I’m being used to do others’ work. Does it make sense to me that I would be frustrated, even angry about that? Yes, it does.
4) Is there anything productive and positive I can do about it? Yes, I could tell my husband that I feel unappreciated when he leaves his dishes next to the sink then kindly tell him what I would like is for him to put his dishes in the dishwasher.
There you have it, four actions that will help you avoid using the four daggers and increase the chance of experiencing healthy connection.
Thanks to Dr. Henry Cloud’s post today on “The Daily Dr. Cloud” for my inspiration.