LAST week I wrote about the 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'. These are the four communication styles, described by marriage guru John Gottman, that best predict the chance of marriages ending in divorce. They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. But what communication styles best help people stay together? My answers are pretty much common sense but, as Voltaire said: "Common sense is not so common."
Maybe the first thing to do is to try to hold on to being polite and respectful with one another. At the beginning of a relationship we are on our best behaviour, but when things start to go wrong politeness between couples is the first thing to fly out of the window.
Next, before you are tempted to say anything negative, try to catch yourself if you can, and ask yourself the following question. "What outcome do I want for our relationship?" It's a simple enough question but it can have a powerful impact on what next comes out of your mouth.
Then, remembering that it takes two to have an argument, try to see the situation as your partner is seeing it. Is there a part of what they're saying that you can agree with? There usually is. If so, then let them know. This is one of the most powerful things you can do; it's acknowledging their point of view – letting them know you've heard them. After you've acknowledged their point of view (respectfully) then express your own point of view. Do this in sentences beginning with the word "I" and not "you": for example, not "You never listen" but "I don't feel I'm being heard". It's less confrontational and you're less likely to get a rebuff.