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The four horsemen: Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling

I’m sure many of us can remember an argument or two, where we’ve found ourselves putting on our boxing gloves, sharpening our knives, slowly layering bricks to build-up a concrete wall, and eventually booking any ticket that would get us far away from the situation. This is because many of us have grown up unaware of how to handle conflict.

According to the Gottman Institute, the Four Horsemen is a metaphor for communication styles that can easily show up during conflict and potentially lead to the death of any relationship.

1. Criticism: Judging your partner for their faults

2. Contempt: Disregarding your partner, making them feel worthless, neglected, or disrespected

3. Defensiveness: Protecting ourselves by creating excuses and quite possibly redirecting the blame onto the other partner

4. Stonewalling: Shutting down from feeling overwhelmed, and eventually withdrawing from their partner

Becoming aware of the ways in which these styles show up in our relationships is the first step in moving towards a more loving, healthy, and productive approach to conflict.

If you’re looking for guidance in understanding your conflict style, relationship counselling is a great place to start exploring the ways in which conflict shows up in all types of relationships.

Blog post written by Yasmine Ross, Certified Relationship Coach and Content Writer at An Elegant Mind Counselling in Vancouver

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By Yasmine Ross
Apr 22, 2022