Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewall

What began as a study on strong marriages has become a lesson on strong relationships at work. A study by Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington says that people who maintain strong performance at work avoid four relationship killers with their colleagues.

Here are the four:

  1. Criticism. Some think of criticism as negative feedback. Not so. Negative feedback that instructs builds or improves is courageous. Criticism that just blames or damns is destructive.
  1. Contempt. It’s open disrespect or disdain for another. It comes when one ridicules or bullies. It occurs when one fails to heed another’s thoughts or ideas.
  1. Defensiveness. The defensive make excuses. The defensive blame. The defensive aren’t accountable. They don’t own a problem.
  1. Stonewall. Stonewallers withdraw. They fail to engage. They sulk. They remain quiet while situations fester and smell.

You can see why such behaviors kill marriages. The experts say after observing and counseling a couple, they can predict whether a marriage will succeed based on the presence of these behaviors.

Certainly, teams struggle with the same thing.

Be constructive. Not critical.

Be respectful. Honor all teammates as equal. Don’t show contempt.

Be accountable. Take responsibility. Try to make things better. Don’t be defensive.

Engage. Initiate problem solving. Communicate. Don’t stonewall.